Britons killed as Airbus crashes in Nepal

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The Independent Online
MORE THAN 30 Britons were thought to have died when a Pakistani International Airlines Airbus crashed into mountains near Kathmandu in Nepal yesterday, killing all 167 people on board.

The crash, the second in the past two months involving an Airbus trying to land at the airport, happened as the plane was approaching in poor visibility and heavy rain at about 8.45am GMT.

The Airbus 300, which had flown from Karachi, came down 14 miles south of the airport and early indications suggested it might have been on a course lower than the required flight-path.

Yesterday's was the fifth crash involving Airbuses, which are built by a European consortium in which British Aerospace has a 20 per cent stake, in the last four years. Pilot error has been found to have been a cause in previous crashes.

The most recent was on 31 July, when a Thai Airways A310 hit the mountains at 11,500ft after a failed landing attempt, killing all 113 on board. Preliminary investigations suggested a navigation error by the pilot was to blame. Kathmandu is a difficult airport as it is ringed by mountains and has no radar or instrument- landing system.

Last night a PIA spokesman in London said: 'We think there were around 33 or 34 Britons aboard of the 35 who had flown from Britain, but we are not sure of some of the nationalities.' The spokesman added that 148 passengers were on board, with 12 crew, four air guards and three aircraft engineers.

The plane was carrying many Europeans headed for trekking holidays or climbing expeditions in the Himalayas, as well as Nepalese returning from jobs in the Middle East.

A British couple returning to Nepal for missionary work with the organisation Interserve were among the victims. Andrew Wilkins, 38, an engineer and his pregnant wife, Helen, 36, a social worker, had spent three years working on schemes to bring hydro-electricity to remote villages and were returning after a year's break in England for another three-year stint. Their children, Hannah, 10, Naomi, 8, and Simeon, 6 also died.

Simon Sheldon, finance director of Interserve, said that Mr Wilkins would often walk for three days to reach remote communities, where he advised on damming streams for hydro-electric projects. 'The Wilkins gave everything to carry out their work,' he said.

Other British victims included a skiing instructor, Sharon Duhig, who was planning to spend a month at the Everest base camp. Two male couriers working for Encounter Overland, an adventure holiday firm, were also on the plane but the company has refused to release their names.

Three other Britons - a couple on a 'round the world dream ticket' and a woman going trekking - were booked through Bridge the World, a north London travel company and six more had booked through Quest Worldwide Travel, of Kingston, south-west London.

An emergency telephone line has been set up by the Foreign Office for relatives of the victims: 071 270 4112 (during normal business hours); 071 839 1010 (outside business hours).