Wreckage of missing U.S. helicopter found: Nepali army

Reuters News
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Posted: May 15, 2015 2:58 AM

By Gopal Sharma

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - The wreckage of a U.S. military helicopter that went missing on Tuesday in Nepal has been found on a mountainside and it is not clear if any of the eight people on board survived, a Nepali army general said on Friday.

The Marine Corps UH-1Y Huey was spotted near the village of Ghorthali at an altitude of 11,200 ft (3,400 m), Major General Binoj Basnet told Reuters. A team of Nepali soldiers was trying to make its way to the site, he said.

"It was found on a steep slope," Basnet said. "Based on information from the Nepali army, the site has been spotted.

"Our ground forces are going towards the site. I think there may not be any survivors. But once we receive information from the ground forces, we will be able to tell you that."

A U.S. military spokeswoman in Kathmandu said she could not confirm the discovery of the helicopter, which went missing in the Dolakha region of eastern Nepal while delivering aid to people hit by the second strong earthquake to hit the country in 17 days.

"We are hearing these rumors too, but we have had no sightings yet," said Marines spokeswoman Captain Cassandra Gesecki said.

The first quake, which struck on April 25 with a magnitude of 7.8, killed 8,199 people. The toll from Tuesday's 7.3 magnitude aftershock has risen to 117, with many victims in the Dolakha district east of Kathmandu where the U.S. chopper was lost.

The combined toll is approaching the number of just over 8,500 who died in an earthquake in 1934, the worst ever natural disaster to hit the poor Himalayan nation.

Nepal has mobilized 600 soldiers to search for the Huey, which had six Marines and two Nepali soldiers on board when it went missing after the crew was heard over the radio saying that the aircraft was experiencing a fuel problem.

Two U.S. Hueys, two MV-22B Osprey tilt-rotor planes and Nepali and Indian choppers had been involved in the search.

"We are trying to air drop our troops to the spot. It is windy," Basnet said. "About 40 ground forces are also going towards the site. It will take them up to 1-1/2 hours to reach."

(Reporting by Tommy Wilkes and Ross Adkin; Writing by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Alex Richardson)