Image: The crash site of a Twin Otter aircraft in Nepal
Krishna Fuyal  /  Reuters
The crash site of a Twin Otter aircraft near the runway at Lukla airport in east Nepal on October on Wednesday.
updated 10/8/2008 11:51:32 AM ET 2008-10-08T15:51:32

A small airplane crashed and caught fire Wednesday as it tried to land in foggy weather at a tiny mountain airport near Mount Everest, killing 18 people, including 16 tourists from Germany, Australia and Nepal, officials said.

Only one person, the pilot, survived.

The 19-seat Yeti Airlines DeHavilland DHC-6 Twin Otter, which had taken off from the capital, Katmandu, snagged its wheels on a security fence during its landing at Lukla airport, about 40 miles (60 kilometers) from Mount Everest, said Mohan Adhikari, general manager of the Katmandu airport.

The plane caught fire and came to a stop within the airport grounds, Adhikari said.

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Tourists killed
He said 19 people were on board, including 12 German, two Australian and two Nepalese tourists. There were also three Nepalese crew members, including a pilot, co-pilot and flight attendant. The pilot was flown to Katmandu and hospitalized in critical condition though Vijay Shreshta, executive director of Yeti Airlines, said his injuries were not believed to be life-threatening.

The visibility at the airport was about 1,310 feet, just enough for the aircraft's landing, he said.

The tiny Lukla airport, little more than a runway carved from the side of the Himalayas at an altitude of 9,200 feet, is an important jumping-off point for trekkers beginning their hikes and mountaineers heading to Everest.

The walk takes several days from there to Mount Everest Base Camp.

The airport is famous among travelers for its dramatic scenery, its stomach-lurching landings — and its occasional crashes. The end of the runway has a steep drop of a few hundred feet.

In 2005, nine passengers and three crew members survived a crash in a small Gorkha Airlines plane with minor injuries.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Deadly plane crash in Nepal

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