Nepal: Marines feared dead as bodies from crash found

Nepalese army soldiers prepare to take part in the search for the missing helicopter. Picture: AP
Nepalese army soldiers prepare to take part in the search for the missing helicopter. Picture: AP
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NEPALESE rescuers have found three bodies near the wreckage of a US marine helicopter that disappeared earlier this week on a relief mission in the earthquake-hit Himalayan nation.

The aircraft was carrying six US marines and two Nepalese soldiers and officials said it was unlikely there were any ­survivors from the crash.

“The wreckage of the helicopter was found in pieces and there are no chances of any survivors,” Nepal’s defence secretary Iswori Poudyal said. He gave no details about the nationalities of the three victims, but said their remains were charred.

A separate team sent by the US marines said they had identified the wreckage as the missing UH-1 “Huey” helicopter.

“The assessment of the site is ongoing and a thorough investigation will be conducted,” a statement from the marine-led joint taskforce said.

Wreckage was found about 15 miles from the town of ­Charikot, near where the aircraft went missing on Tuesday while delivering humanitarian aid to villages hit by two deadly ­earthquakes, according to the US military joint taskforce in Okinawa, Japan.

The area is near Gothali village in the district of Dolakha, about 70km (50 miles) north-east of Nepal’s capital, Katmandu.

The discovery of the wreckage, first spotted by Nepalese ground troops and two army helicopters, followed days of intensive searching involving American and Nepalese aircraft and US satellites.

A US relief mission was sent in after a magnitude-7.8 quake hit on 25 April, killing more than 8,200 people. It was followed by another magnitude-7.3 quake on Tuesday that is estimated to have killed 117 people and injured 2,800.

The helicopter had been delivering rice and tarpaulins in Charikot, the area worst hit by Tuesday’s quake. It had dropped off supplies in one location and was en route to a second when contact was lost.

US military officials said this week that an Indian helicopter in the air nearby heard radio chatter from the helicopter about a possible fuel problem.

A total of 300 US military personnel have been supporting the aid mission in Nepal, which includes three UH-1s, four marine MV-22B Ospreys, two KC-130 Hercules and four US air force C-17 Globemaster heavy-lift aircraft.

A Nepali woman seriously injured by falling debris in Tuesday’s earthquake was airlifted to a Katmandu hospital on Thursday in the Nepalese prime minister’s helicopter, after two British paramedics pleaded with officials to help save her life.

Prime minister Sushil Koirala was on a visit to Charikot.

The Nepali government has been criticised by some for being slow to react to the 25 April earthquake which destroyed hundreds of thousands of buildings – including ancient temples – leaving hundreds of thousands homeless and injuring at least 18,000 people. The quakes also triggered lethal avalanches in the Himalayas, including Mount Everest.