Minister Adhikari himself is said to have had misgivings at an earlier airport inspection stop in Tehrathum about the deteriorating weather, and was reluctant to fly to Pathibhara. Eye-witnesses said the Airbus Helicopter H125 crashed 1 minute after taking off in heavy snow, hitting the side of a cliff. Whether it was controlled flight into terrain, or icing on the rotors will have to await an investigation.
Adhikari’s hometown of Pokhara is in shock, and the minister was set to be cremated in Kaski on Thursday. The crash has cost the lives of the prime movers of Visit Nepal 2020, and Nepal Tourism Board CEO Deepak Raj Joshi is devastated. He told Nepali Times: “This is an irrecoverable loss, he was devoted to the campaign, and worked tirelessly to improve aviation infrastructure.”
It was also a tragic reminder of another disaster 25km away in September 2006 in which 24 people were killed when a helicopter hit a mountain soon after takeoff from Ghunsa in bad weather. Nearly all of Nepal’s conservation pioneers perished, including Harka Gurung, Chandra Gurung, Mingma Sherpa, and Tirthaman Maskey. Jillian Bowling Schlaepfer and Jennifer Headley of the WWF also died, as did Pauli Mustonen, the Finnish charge d’affaires in Kathmandu (below).