Six people were killed on Tuesday morning when a helicopter crashed during a sightseeing trip over Mount Everest, according to local officials in Nepal.
The bodies of five Mexican tourists, two men and three women, and a male Nepali pilot were recovered from the crash site, the authorities said. The cause of the crash was not immediately clear.
The helicopter, which was operated by Manang Air, took off after 10 a.m. local time and lost contact with air traffic control within minutes, according to multiple statements from the country’s Civil Aviation Authority. The aircraft was headed to Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, from Surke, a nearby small town in the remote region near Mount Everest.
Raju Neupane, a spokesperson for Manang Air, said, “The weather was not bad. Now we can’t say what caused the crash. It will have to be investigated,” according to Reuters.
However, Pratap Tiwari, a spokesperson for Nepal’s aviation authority, said that two helicopters from Altitude Air, another charter company, had mobilized for rescue operations but could not land directly at the crash site because of “adverse weather” conditions.
Manang Air provides aerial sightseeing tours of the area and customizable ones to private clients, according to the company’s website. In a statement shared online, the company identified the helicopter’s pilot as Chet B. Gurung, who was 55 years old and had “more than 7,000 flight hours of experience working with Manang Air since 2014,” it said.
On Tuesday evening, Nepal’s aviation authority identified the five passengers as Fernando Sifuentes, Ismael Rincon, Abric Gonzalez, Luz Gonzalez Olacio and Maria Jose Sifuentes.
The company expressed condolences to the relatives of the passengers and said that it would continue to work with and provide information to the local authorities.
The Mount Everest region, which thrives on tourism and appeals to a growing body of thrill seekers, has also struggled with a history of shoddy regulations and mismanagement as the Nepali government pushes to commercialize the mountain. Deadly climbing seasons often result, some experienced mountaineers have said.
All six of the deceased were airlifted to T.U. Teaching Hospital in Kathmandu for autopsies, the aviation authority said. The agency was expected to launch a formal investigation into the cause of the crash.