February 28, 2019 02:00 AM NPT
Wednesday afternoon stunned us all. The helicopter of Air Dynasty carrying seven passengers including Tourism Minister Rabindra Adhikari crashed near Pathibhara of Taplelung district. The helicopter was en route to Chuhandanda of Tehrathum from Pathibhara of Taplejung. Apart from minister Adhikari, under-secretary of Prime Minister’s Office Yubaraj Dahal and Ang Tshering Sherpa of Air Dynasty, among others, were also onboard. Reportedly, the helicopter had left Pathibhara at around 11:30 for Chuhandanda of Tehrathum to take the stock of the ongoing airport construction. As of this writing, details keep emerging but all seven members on board have been confirmed dead and their bodies recovered, sending dread and shock to all the people. A promising minister, along with many other officials, has lost their lives in this tragedy that could have been prevented. The incident has deeply hurt people. Social media are flooded with condolence messages for Minister Adhikari, who was an active, determined and committed person and who was liked across the political spectrum and by majority of people for his ability to take risks and his persistent advocacy for development and prosperity. Among the victims, Adhikari will be missed because the country has a lost a daring and popular minister in the preventable tragedy. Words fail to express condolence to Adhikari and other members who were on board the ill-fated helicopter.
Wednesday’s Taplejung tragedy also raises question of how lightly our civil aviation sector takes weather factor. Wednesday was not the clear weather day, by any measure. Sky was overcast across the country from early morning, there had been forecast that entire country will remain cloudy and several parts would witness rains. The officials who approved of this helicopter flight do not seem to have taken the weather condition seriously. On board were civil aviation minister and a tourism and civil aviation entrepreneur (Ang Tshiring Sherpa), among others. We wonder how they failed to take stock of weather conditions. Why was the helicopter allowed to take a flight? Why did Kathmandu tower permit it? Like other parts of Nepal’s hills, Taplejung is also not always a safe to fly over. In 2006, we had lost prominent figures to tragedy of Taplejung in a similar crash. On September 23, 2006, then Minister of State for Forest and Soil Conservation Gopal Rai and former minister and conservationist Dr Harka Gurung, among many officials of WWF, had lost their lives. And the reason was bad weather condition.
This tragedy should serve as a constant reminder to the authorities to take weather issue terribly seriously. Weather forecast in Nepal has become more reliable than in the past. Innovation in information technology has made it possible to know about the weather conditions of a week in advance. Only if our minister and other members had taken care of weather issue, before they took the flight, perhaps we would not have to see this day. We are taken by deep grief over the deaths of a cheerful, committed minister and the members who accompanied him in that ill-fated flight. Our heartfelt condolences go to the bereaved families of the victims and wish such a tragedy would not have to be written about ever again.