Kathmandu – Nepal’s tourism minister Rabindra Adhikari was among seven people killed Wednesday when a helicopter crashed in the country’s hilly east, officials said.
Rescue workers retrieved the bodies of Adhikari, 49, the pilot and five other passengers from a hillside in Taplejung district where the Air Dynasty chopper went down.
“The respected minister’s body has been identified,” Ram Krishna Subedi, the spokesman for the Ministry of Home Affairs, said in a press conference.
Subedi said two army helicopters had been dispatched to bring the bodies back to the capital Kathmandu.
It is unclear why the helicopter crashed.
A search and rescue team was deployed to the area after locals alerted authorities to flames and smoke rising from a hillside.
“The helicopter is in pieces, and scattered all over,” said Suraj Bhattarai, a witness who saw the debris.
The bodies of the others killed in the crash have not yet been identified.
The minister was on a trip to scope out a possible location for a new airport in the region.
It is just the latest aviation accident to plague Nepal, an impoverished Himalayan nation with a poor air safety record.
Nepal has some of the world’s most remote and tricky runways, flanked by snow-capped peaks with approaches that pose a challenge for even accomplished pilots.
The country has a booming private helicopter industry, flying tourists and goods to remote corners of the Himalayan nation where road access is limited or non-existent.
In September last year, six people including a Japanese tourist was killed when a helicopter crashed.
A US-Bangla Airways plane crashed near the capital’s airport in March, killing 51 people.
Nepal-based airlines are banned from flying in European Union airspace.
Its poor air safety record is largely blamed on inadequate maintenance and sub-standard management.