Nepal plane crash: Britons' family and friends pay tribute

Image source, Other
Image caption,
The group - including (L-R) Stephen Holding, Vincent Kelly and Benjamin Ogden - had been due on a Himalayan trekking expedition until mid-October

Tributes have been paid to seven British men who were among 19 people killed in a plane crash in Nepal.

Angie Gaunt, wife of Timothy Oakes, from Cheshire, said he had "lived life to the full".

Vincent Kelly was described as a "wonderful powerhouse of a man" by friend Mark Brocklehurst.

Reports from Nepal suggest pilot error may be to blame for the crash which also killed seven Nepalis and five Chinese nationals.

The plane, belonging to Nepal's domestic airline Sita Air, was heading east towards Lukla, the gateway to Mount Everest and a popular destination for trekkers.

Bird strike claim

Deependra Shahi, Sita Air's Sales and Marketing Manager, told the BBC he disagreed with the reports.

The cause of the crash has not yet been officially confirmed but Mr Shahi said he had been informed the plane's engine burst into flames after being hit by a bird.

He added the aircraft was in "sound condition."

Air accident investigators from the UK are heading to Kathmandu to investigate the plane crash

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said it was sending two staff to Kathmandu to assist local authorities.

'Deeply missed'

As well as Mr Oakes, 57, and Mr Kelly, 50, the other Britons killed have been named by local travel company Sherpa Adventures as:

  • Stephen Holding, 60, from Barlaston in Staffordshire;
  • Raymond Eagle, 58, from Macclesfield in Cheshire;
  • Christopher Davey, 51;
  • Mr Kelly's brother Darren Kelly, 45, both originally from Lostock, Bolton;
  • Benjamin Ogden, 27, who lived in London.

Maggie Holding, wife of Stephen Holding, said her husband and his friend Tim Oakes had been planning to trek around the areas of the Everest base camp.

In a statement released by Staffordshire Police, Mrs Holding said: "Steve always loved being in the mountains.

"He had done a lot of work with Peak Pursuits taking youngsters on Duke of Edinburgh activities."

The youngest British victim, Mr Ogden, was a graduate of Oxford University and had recently qualified as an associate for London-based international law firm Allen & Overy.

A spokesman for the company said: "As well as being an excellent lawyer, Ben was a very popular member of the firm.

"It was clear to everyone that he had an incredibly promising career ahead of him. Ben will be deeply missed by all who knew him."

'Trip of a lifetime'

Having arrived in Nepal on Wednesday, the British group had been due to start trekking on Friday on an expedition scheduled to last until mid-October.

Media caption,
Angie Gaunt, wife of Timothy Oakes who died in the crash: "He was a great believer in living your life to the full"

Ms Gaunt said her husband had "died doing something he always wanted to do".

Mourning the loss with the couple's daughter, she added: "It should never deter people from living out their dreams. It was the trip of a lifetime, he had always wanted to do it.

"People have got to live and enjoy what they want to do. That is exactly what Tim would want people to do."

Mr Oakes and Mr Holding were both members of the Bremex Mountaineering and Climbing Club.

Fellow club member Matt Morton described Mr Holding as "a gentle giant of a man".

"He was tall, quietly spoken and just a genuinely nice chap - he was always interested in what other people were doing and always happy to have a chat."

Darren Kelly is said to have been a semi-retired businessman who had moved in recent years to the Isle of Whithorn, in Dumfries and Galloway, where he was involved in regeneration work.

"Darren was just a really nice bloke," said a friend, who asked not to be named. "You would struggle to find anyone who could say anything bad about him. He was just a first-class guy."

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

Company director Vincent Kelly was also a fundraiser for Bolton Lads & Girls Club, and had last year completed a sponsored bike ride from John O'Groats to Lands' End.

"His generosity meant that more than 400 young people per week are now able to continue to play all weather sports upon the new Astroturf pitch," said a club statement.

"There aren't enough words to describe just how wonderful Vincent was - a dedicated family man with a generous heart of gold who was a perfect role model for all," said Mr Brocklehurst.

Mr Eagle worked as a support worker at Cheshire East Council, where a spokesman said he had "enabled people with disabilities to live independently in their own homes".

"He did go trekking, he was a fell runner and very, very active in outdoor activities," said neighbour Pauline Girdwood. "He was a go-getter, so in a way I'm not surprised that that is where he was."

Prime Minister David Cameron, who is on a trade trip to Brazil, described the accident as "absolutely horrific".

Media caption,
The British Ambassador to Nepal John Tucknott says his focus now is on helping the families of those who died

The British ambassador to Nepal, John Tucknott, told the BBC: "If family members wish to come to Nepal, we stand by to offer them every assistance we possibly can at this very difficult time."

Adventure travel company Explore Worldwide, based in Farnborough, Hampshire, confirmed that the Britons had been its clients.

Managing director Ashley Toft said: "We are devastated by this news. Our thoughts are very much with the families of those affected, both in the UK and in Nepal.

"The basic facts are that Sita Air operates scheduled flights and is approved by airline authorities. The weather was good. The plane was departing for Lukla and our passengers were heading for Everest Base Camp at the start of their trek."

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