Nepal air crash relatives call for risk warning for tourists

Timothy Oakes
Image caption Timothy Oakes "loved adventure but he loved his family more", his widow told the inquest in Warrington

Relatives of seven Britons killed in an air crash in Nepal have called for tourists to be warned about "the risks involved" in flying there.

All 19 people on board died when a plane, belonging to Nepal's SITA Air, crashed shortly after taking off from Kathmandu in September 2012.

An inquest at Warrington Coroner's Court passed a verdict of accidental death on the Britons who died.

The coroner called for tour operators in Nepal not to use local airlines.

Angela Gaunt, from Warrington, whose husband Tim Oakes died in the tragedy, told Tuesday's inquest he would not have taken the flight had he been aware of Nepal's air safety record.

"He loved adventure but he loved his family more," she said.

Airlines blacklisted

She said the families have spent "a long and emotional 18 months" working with others to understand why the plane crashed.

According to the Aviation Safety Network, there have been more than 30 fatal air crashes in Nepal since the 1950s, killing more than 700 people.

The EU has put all of the country's airlines on a blacklist and banned them from flying to the EU on safety grounds.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The plane came down only a few minutes after taking off from Kathmandu

Maggie Holding, from Stoke-on-Trent, whose husband Steve was killed in the crash, said the pain she felt seeing the burning plane on TV "will never leave me".

"British travel companies selling flight packages in Nepal have a duty to inform their clients fully about the risks involved," she said.

The coroner at the inquest, Nicholas Rheinberg, said he will write to the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) asking them to tell tour operators in Nepal not to use local airlines.

ABTA said once they will "take appropriate action" once it has received the coroner's recommendations.

Aircraft 'overloaded'

"Many tour operators providing trips to and within Nepal will not be members of ABTA and also many travellers to the country will be making their own arrangements, often once they arrive in the country," their statement continued.

They "strongly advise" independent travellers thinking of taking a domestic flight within Nepal to read the Foreign Office's aviation safety section before choosing an airline to fly with.

The inquest heard from investigators from the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB), who went to Nepal in 2012.

A commission investigating the cause of the crash concluded it might have happened because the aircraft was overloaded.

It said the plane crashed because "the drag was greater than the power available", as a result of which the "aircraft decelerated in the critical phase of ascent lowering the required thrust".

Image copyright Other
Image caption The group - including (L-R) Stephen Holding, Vincent Kelly and Benjamin Ogden - had been due to go on a Himalayan trekking expedition

Solicitors Irwin Mitchell, who have been acting for some of the relatives, said they have secured an admission of liability from tour package provider Explore Worldwide Ltd in relation to the tragedy.

Jim Morris said: "We still have to reach agreement as to the fair value of our clients' claims for the loss of their loved ones."

Explore Worldwide said that under the Package Travel Regulations, tour operators are liable for all the services provided to customers as part of their holiday package, including flights.

Their statement added: "Explore takes responsibility for the actions of SITA, its chosen Nepalese carrier, and therefore legal liability for the crash."

The company said that it had removed from sale all tours using Nepalese carriers as soon as the EU placed them on their black list.

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