"We had to improvise"

Army and police personnel gather at the US-Bangla plane crash site at the Kathmandu airport on Monday. Pic: Gopen Rai

Nepal Army Lt Col Puran Ghale was in the first rescue team to reach the US-Bangla crash site on Monday, and spoke to BBC Nepali Service.  

BBC Nepali: What did you see when you reached the crash site?

Puran Ghale: The plane was burning on the grass, and we sensed a danger of the fire spreading and we heard explosions. 

So how did you respond? 

We have gone through frequent training drills precisely to respond to such disasters. Even last year, we had conducted a large-scale simulated crash. Learning from our mock crashes, we tried to douse the fire and rescue passengers and crew members. We split into different units, and tried to cut through the cabin to reach survivors. My unit had collapsed structure rescue equipment, but we also needed to improvise. The fire control team of the TIA also arrived there with foam and other equipment. The ambulances took a little more time.

What challenges did your unit faced in rescue?

The aircraft was engulfed in fire, fuel was leaking from the tanks. We had to be careful not to ignite the fuel and trigger an explosion. We had to manually break into the aircraft hull and pull out passengers. After police arrived, we got more manpower to rescue passengers by using traditional equipment like axes and ropes. 

What are the lessons from this crash?

The fire could spread easily, causing more damage. So we need to keep the airport area clean, removing all the grass. If aircraft engineers were there, they could have showed us right way to get into the wreckage. In this case, they came only after we requested them. 

Read also:

Confusion in the cockpit, Kanak Mani Dixit 

US-Bangla crash