The co-pilot of the Yeti Airlines flight that crashed on Sunday in Nepal was the widow of a pilot who flew for the same airline, and also died in a plane crash 16 years ago.
In 2010, Anju Khatiwada joined Yeti Airlines, following in the footsteps of her husband. Dipak Pokhrel also flew for the Nepali airline, but died when a small passenger plane he was flying went down minutes before landing.
Khatiwada was the co-pilot of the flight from Kathmandu that crashed as it approached the city of Pokhara on Sunday, killing at least 68 people in the Himalayan nation’s deadliest plane accident in three decades.
No survivors have been found so far among the 72 people on board.
“Her husband, Dipak Pokhrel, died in 2006 in a crash of a Twin Otter plane of Yeti Airlines in Jumla,” airline spokesperson Sudarshan Bartaula told Reuters, referring to Khatiwada. “She got her pilot training with the money she got from the insurance after her husband’s death.”
A pilot with more than 6,400 hours of flying time, Khatiwada had previously flown the popular tourist route from the capital, Kathmandu, to the country’s second-largest city, Pokhara, Bartaula said.
The body of Kamal KC, the captain of the flight, who had more than 21,900 hours of flight time, has been recovered and identified.
Kathiwada has not been identified but she is feared dead, Bartaula said.
“On Sunday, she was flying the plane with an instructor pilot, which is the standard procedure of the airline,” said a Yeti Airlines official, who knew Khatiwada personally.
“She was always ready to take up any duty and had flown to Pokhara earlier,” said the official, who asked not to be named because he isn’t authorised to speak to media.
Reuters was unable to immediately reach any of her family members.
The ATR-72 aircraft that Khatiwada was co-piloting rolled from side to side before crashing in a gorge near Pokhara airport and catching fire, according to eyewitness accounts and a video of the crash posted on social media.
The cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder from the aircraft, which may help investigators determine what caused it to crash in clear weather, were recovered on Monday.
Nearly 350 people have died in plane or helicopter crashes in Nepal since 2000. The country is home to eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains, including Everest, and sudden weather changes can make for hazardous conditions.