February 3, 2023

After Dipak Pokhrel died in a crash while piloting a small Yeti Airlines passenger plane in 2006, his wife Anju Khatiwada used the money she got from her husband’s insurance to pay for her own pilot training. On Sunday, Khatiwada was the co-pilot flying the Yeti Airlines plane that crashed on its descent into a new airport in Pokhara, Nepal, killing all 72 people on board.

A spokesman for the airline confirmed the fate of Khatiwada, 44, to various news agencies on Monday.

“She was flying the plane with an instructor pilot, which is the standard procedure of the airline,” an unnamed airline official, who said they knew Khatiwada personally, told Reuters. “She was always ready to take up any duty and had flown to Pokhara earlier.”

Khatiwada had regularly flown the popular tourist route between the country’s capital Kathmandu and its second largest city Pokhara.

Aftermath of Yeti Airlines plane crash, in Pokhara
A rescue team recovers the body of a victim from the site of the plane crash of a Yeti Airlines operated aircraft, in Pokhara, Nepal on Jan. 16, 2023.

STRINGER / REUTERS


Yeti Airlines spokesperson Pemba Sherpa said Kathiwada was a “skilled pilot” with a “friendly nature” who had risen to the rank of captain after thousands of hours of flying time.

“We have lost our best,” Sherpa told the Associated Press. 

Kathiwada’s remains had not been identified amid the pulverized wreckage of the ATR-72 turboprop aircraft.

It remains unclear what caused the crash. A witness on the ground who recorded video of the plane’s descent from his balcony said he saw it flying low before suddenly veering to the left and diving.

“I saw that and I was shocked… I thought that today everything will be finished here after it crashes, I will also be dead,” Diwas Bohora was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

An Indian passenger’s harrowing 90-second video showed himself and his friends enjoying the descent into Pokhara before a sudden jolt knocks the camera unsteady, and the shot quickly fills with smoke and flames as passengers scream amid the chaos. The videos appear to corroborate reports that something brought the plane down with little or no warning.

A spokesman for Nepal’s Civil Aviation Authority and Yeti Airlines confirmed that both the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder — the so-called black boxes — were recovered from the site on Monday, which should help investigators determine the cause of the crash.

Nepal is home to some of the world’s largest mountains, including Mount Everest, and the rough terrain and accompanying dramatic weather changes make for dangerous flying.

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