An airline crash that took place in Nepal last year is likely to have been caused by serious deficiencies in the operation of the flight by the aircraft operator Sita Air, according to analysis of the accident report from the Nepal Aircraft Accident Investigation Commission, which was ratified this week by independent aviation experts, insurers and lawyers.
The investigation follows the report released by the Nepal Aircraft Accident Investigation Commission in August 2013, which suggests the crash to have been caused by a combination of factors, including an overweight aircraft with too much luggage stowed on board.
The Dornier 228 aircraft crashed shortly after take-off from Kathmandu airport en route to Lukla on 28 September, 2012. Farnborough-based tour operator Explore had seven of its customers and one local tour leader on board the ill-fated plane. All 19 people on board were killed.
Explore has since arranged for relatives of the deceased to visit the accident scene and it today pledged to continue to offer its support to all of the families. It has also spearheaded a UK travel industry audit of Nepalese domestic air carriers to try to make flying in Nepal safer.
The European Union recently placed all of Nepal’s airlines on its air safety list – effectively banning Nepalese registered aircraft from flying to European member states. , Explore has suspended all its tours with domestic flights between Kathmandu and Lukla, and replaced all other domestic flight routes in Nepal with land based travel where appropriate.
With Sita Air now likely to be held responsible for the tragedy at Kathmandu, Explore is required by British law to accept liability under the EU Package Travel Regulations for its customers killed in the crash.
Ashley Toft, Managing Director of Explore, said: “This has been an extremely difficult time for the relatives and friends of our customers, who tragically lost their lives in Nepal - especially given the duration of the investigation – and they continue to have our deepest sympathies for their loss.
“We have supported the families as best as we can since they lost their loved ones and we know they wanted and needed to understand why the aircraft crashed at Kathmandu. So today’s announcement is, I believe, an important stage in the healing process and we will, of course, continue to offer every support in the future to the families.
“Our acceptance of liability will help to reduce further the legal process which the relatives of our customers have been subjected to and we hope that this will now speed up the settlement process.
“We may be a relatively small travel company, but our approach to risk and safety takes precedence over everything we do.
“We will continue to seek to raise standards of safety even at the expense of our ability to sell tours or destinations that customers seek. We will also continue to use external expertise to support our risk management approach; there is always more that we and the travel industry can do.
“Our work to lead the UK travel industry audit of Nepal’s airlines, I believe, demonstrates our philosophy and we continue to work very hard to ensure the safety of our customers in over 120 countries in which we operate.”
For further information on Explore, call 0844 499 0901 or visit www.explore.co.uk
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