60 of the Nepal plane crash victims handed over to relatives

Relatives and friends perform last rites of the plane crash victims, in Pokhara, Nepal, Wednesday, Jan.18, 2023. (AP Photo/Yunish Gurung)

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Authorities in Nepal have handed to relatives the bodies of 60 of the 72 people killed in a plane crash last week, the airline said.

Rescuers were still searching for two bodies at the site where a Yeti Airlines flight with 72 on board crashed on Jan. 15 at the resort town of Pokhara, 200 kilometers (125 miles) west of the capital, Kathmandu.

Among the 10 other bodies recovered, six have been identified and will be returned to relatives soon and four others still need to be identified, the airline said in a statement late Monday.

The twin-engine ATR 72-500 aircraft plummeted into a gorge as it was approaching Pokhara International Airport in the Himalayan foothills. The crash site is about 1.6 kilometers (1 mile) from the runway at an elevation of about 820 meters (2,700 feet).

While it’s still not clear what caused the crash, some aviation experts say video taken from the ground of the plane’s last moments indicated it went into a stall, although it’s unclear why.

Nepal’s Civil Aviation Authority has also said the airport’s instrument landing system will not be working until Feb. 26 — eight weeks after the airport began operations on Jan. 1. Aviation safety experts have said the absence reflects the poor air safety record in Nepal, where mountainous terrain and the resulting variable weather conditions make flying conditions difficult.

The crash is Nepal’s deadliest since 1992, when a Pakistan International Airlines plane plowed into a hill as it tried to land in Kathmandu, killing all 167 people on board. There have been 42 fatal plane crashes in Nepal since 1946, according to the Safety Matters Foundation.