“I was walking when I heard a loud blast, like a bomb went off,” said witness Arun Tamu, 44, who was around 500 metres away and who live-streamed video of the blazing wreckage on social media.
“A few of us rushed to see if we can rescue anybody. I saw at least two women were breathing. The fire was getting very intense and it made it difficult for us to approach closer,” the former soldier told AFP.
It was unclear if anyone on the ground was injured.
Aviation expert Greg Waldon told AFP that, from the video shared on social media, it appeared the plane may have had a “wing stall”, meaning one wing suddenly stopped providing lift.
“When you’re at low altitude and you have an event like that… it’s major trouble,” Waldon, Asia managing editor at industry publication FlightGlobal, told AFP.
France-based manufacturer ATR said in a statement on Sunday that its “specialists are fully engaged to support both the investigation and the customer”.
Nepal’s air industry has boomed in recent years, carrying goods and people between hard-to-reach areas, as well as ferrying foreign mountain climbers.
Yeti Airlines, Nepal’s second-biggest carrier, was founded in 1998 by entrepreneur Ang Tshering Sherpa, who died in a helicopter crash in 2019.
The aviation sector has been plagued by poor safety due to insufficient training and maintenance. The European Union has banned all Nepali carriers from its airspace over safety concerns.
Nepal also has some of the world’s most remote and trickiest runways, flanked by snow-capped peaks with difficult approaches and capricious weather.
The country’s deadliest aviation accident took place in 1992, when all 167 people on a Pakistan International Airlines jet died when it crashed on approach to Kathmandu.