NEW DELHI (The Straits Times/Asia News Network): A passenger from India recorded in a livestream the last seconds before a plane he was on crashed in the city of Pokhara, in Nepal.
A video that has gone viral in India showed Sonu Jaiswal going on Facebook Live as the plane – a twin-engine propeller plane operated by Yeti Airlines – was trying to land at Pokhara’s airport on Sunday (Jan 15).
The footage showed the plane gliding gently over the honeycombs of buildings dotting brown-green fields surrounding the airport.
Jaiswal turned the camera on himself, and smiled. He then turned it around again to show the other passengers, chatting and laughing.
Seconds later, the phone lost focus but a deafening crash and screaming could be heard. Then, it kept recording.
There were flames and the sound of an engine screeching. When it refocused, it was already on the ground pointing at a tree before it seemed to have been yanked out of focus again. Then, there was the sound of heavy breathing before the video ended.
Another video, taken from the ground, showed the plane levelled with the ground as it approached the airport before it suddenly took a hard swerve to the left.
The plane, which took off from the Nepali capital of Kathmandu just 30 minutes before it crashed, had 68 passengers and four crewmen on board.
None is believed to have survived in what is now Nepal’s worst air disaster in nearly 30 years.
Jaiswal was with three of his friends, all from Ghazipur in India, who had gone to a grand shrine on the outskirts of Kathmandu dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva before they flew to Pokhara, a picturesque tourist town, to paraglide.
The BBC reported that his friends and kin had told reporters they watched the video on his Facebook account, and confirmed its authenticity.
Abhishek Pratap Shah, a former lawmaker in Nepal, told Indian news channel NDTV that rescuers recovered Jaiswal’s phone from the plane’s wreckage.
“It (the video clip) was sent by one of my friends, who received it from a police officer. It is a real record,” Shah told NDTV.
Jaiswal’s father, Rajendra Prasad Jaiswal, told the BBC he could not bear to watch the clip himself.
“I have only heard about it from Sonu’s friends. Our lives have come crashing down,” he said.
The Nepali government announced on Monday that rescuers had found the plane’s cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder.
The data on the recorders may help investigators determine what caused the Yeti Airlines ATR 72 aircraft to go down in clear weather.
Both recorders were in good shape, Teknath Sitaula, a Kathmandu airport official, told Reuters.
Minutes before the aircraft was to land, the pilot asked for a change of runway, Anup Joshi, a spokesperson for Pokhara airport, said on Monday.
“The permission was granted. We don’t ask (why). Whenever a pilot asks, we give permission to change approach,” he said.
Two more bodies were recovered on Monday, taking the death toll to 70.
One of the pilots, Anju Khatiwada, was married to another pilot who died in a 2006 plane crash.