A passenger records the landing of the Nepali plane before it crashes

Passenger Sonu Jaiswal’s 90-second smartphone video begins with the plane flying over buildings and green fields as it approaches the runway in Pokhara, a Nepalese city in the foothills of the Himalayas.

Everything seemed normal as Jaiswal’s Facebook Live morphed from the breathtaking views seen from the plane window to the other passengers laughing. Finally, Jaiswal, wearing a yellow jacket, turns the camera to himself and smiles.

Then it happened.

The plane suddenly appeared to veer to its left when Jaiswal’s smartphone briefly picked up the screams of the passengers. Within seconds, the video switched to shaking and a screeching engine was heard. Towards the end of the video, flames and smoke shoot through the frame.

A Yeti Airlines flight from Kathmandu plunged into a gorge on Sunday, killing all 72 people on board and crew. The plane was co-piloted by Anju Khatiwada, who pursued years of pilot training in the United States after her husband died in a 2006 plane crash while flying the same airline. Her colleagues described her as a very skilled and enthusiastic pilot.

Man with dark hair and beard, wearing white and blue plaid jacket and blue long-sleeved shirt, standing near plant

Sonu Jaiswal, 25, one of 72 people who died in a plane crash in Nepal, filmed and broadcast a 90-second video of the plane’s descent.

(uncredited / Associated Press)

The deaths of Khatiwada, 44, and Jaiswal, 25, are part of a deadly pattern in Nepal, a country that has seen a series of air crashes over the years, due in part to difficult terrain, bad weather and aging fleets.

On Tuesday, authorities began returning some of the identified bodies to family members and said they would send the plane’s ATR 72-500 data recorder to France for analysis to determine the cause of the crash.

In the Indian city of Gazipur, about 185 miles south of the crash site in Nepal, Jaiswal’s family was distraught and still waiting to identify his body. His father, Rajendra Prasad Jaiswal, had left by car on Monday evening and was expected to arrive in Kathmandu late on Tuesday.

“It’s a tough wait,” said Jaiswal’s brother, Deepak.

Dipak Jaiswal said news of the plane crash in Pokhara reached his home a few minutes after the accident as news channels started broadcasting images of the plane’s wreckage still burning and thick gray smoke billowing.

However, the family was not willing to trust the news, and held out hope that Jaiswal would survive.

But by Sunday evening, it was becoming clear. Deepak Jaiswal, who confirmed the authenticity of his brother’s live broadcast to the Associated Press, was among the first in his family to view the video, which has since gone viral on the Internet.

“We couldn’t believe the news until we saw the video,” he said. “It hurt.”

Jaiswal, a father of three, works in a liquor store in Alawalepur Avgha village in Ghazipur district of Uttar Pradesh state. Deepak Jaiswal said his brother went to Kathmandu to visit the Pashupatinath temple — a Hindu shrine dedicated to the god Shiva — and pray for his son, before setting off to Pokhara for sightseeing with three other friends.

He wasn’t just my brother,” Deepak Jaiswal said. “I lost a friend in it.”

The tragedy was deeply felt in Nepal, as 53 of the passengers were from Nepal.

Hundreds of relatives and friends of the victims offered condolences to each other on Tuesday at a local hospital. Families of some of the victims whose bodies have been identified have prepared funerals for their loved ones.

Copilot Khatiwada’s colleagues were still in disbelief.

“She was a very good and very experienced pilot,” Yeti Airlines spokesperson Pemba Sherpa said of Khatiwada.

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7:16 PM January 17, 2023An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that co-pilot Anju Khatiwada began flying for Yeti Airlines in 2020, four years after the death of her husband, Deepak Pokhrel, in a crash. Her husband was killed in a crash in 2006.

Khatiwada started flying for Yeti Airlines in 2020. Her husband, Dipak Pokerel, was flying a DHC-6 Twin Otter 300 for the same airline in 2006 when it crashed in Nepal’s Jumla district and caught fire, killing all nine people on board. They are on board. She later married Khatiwada.

Sherpa said Khatiwada was a “skilled pilot” with a “friendly nature” who had risen to captain having flown thousands of hours since joining the airline in 2010.

“We lost the best of us,” Sherpa said.

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