Six killed in Nepal chopper crash

Kathmandu (AFP) –


A helicopter crashed into a hillside in central Nepal on Saturday, killing six on board including a Japanese tourist, officials said.

One woman survived the crash with injuries and has been airlifted to the capital.

District police chief Basanta Bahadur Kunwar told AFP authorities were working to retrieve the bodies, but that reaching the crash site, located in thick forest and with no road access, had been "challenging".

He added that the cause of the accident remained unknown.

The single-pilot Kathmandu-bound Altitude Air helicopter was carrying six passengers, including a Japanese trekker, when it lost contact with air traffic control after taking off from the central district of Gorkha.

Nepal 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.

But the impoverished country has a poor air safety record due to poorly trained staff and lacklustre maintenance.

In 2016, seven people were killed in a helicopter crash 22 kilometres (14 miles) north of the capital.

There were multiple helicopter accidents, claiming over a dozen lives, in the wake of a powerful 2015 earthquake when choppers were used to rescue the injured and deliver aid to communities cut off by the disaster.

The European Union banned all Nepalese airlines following international alarm over the country's air safety record.