A talented British ballet dancer perished in the Nepal plane crash just one day after his 34th birthday.
Ruan Crighton, from Brentwood, Essex, was listed as the 12th passenger on board the doomed Yeti Airlines ATR72 flight that crashed into a gauge and caught on fire as it approached the central city of Pokhara on Sunday.
It comes as the rescue crew searching the wreckage said that hopes of finding any survivors among the 72 passengers on board the plane are now ‘nil’.
Originally believed to be from Ireland, the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed on Monday that Mr Crighton was a UK national and was travelling with a UK passport.
The passenger, who has been named as Ruan Crighton, was on board the Yeti Airlines ATR 72 flight when it crashed into gorge near the city of Pokhara on Sunday
Hopes of finding any survivors after a plane with 72 people on board crashed in Nepal are now ‘nil’, a senior local official said on Monday. Pictured: Rescuers scour the crash site in Pokhara on Monday
The Yeti Airlines ATR 72 crashed into the steep gorge, smashed into pieces and burst into flames as it approached the central city of Pokhara on Sunday morning, in Nepal’s worst aviation disaster since 1992. Pictured: Rescue workers search the wreckage
The UK Foreign Office confirmed Mr Crighton, a British national, had died in Nepal and his family were being supported by specialist officers.
It’s understood that Mr Crighton died just one day after celebrating his 34th birthday which fell on January 14.
His death has been met with resounding sadness across the ballet community in Europe.
Mr Crighton first joined the Central School of Ballet, London in 2005 before becoming a dancer with the Slovak National Theatre in Slovakia from 2008 to 2013.
He then became a valued member at the prestigious Finnish National Opera and Ballet company in Finland from 2013 to 2019, according to his LinkedIn profile.
More recently, Mr Crighton had been enrolled at the European School of Physiotherapy in Amsterdam. He was supposed to graduate next year.
A friend and dancer at Slovak National Theatre told the Irish Daily Mail that news of his death deeply upset him.
‘I got the info yesterday, but i was hoping it wasn’t him,’ he said.
‘Ruan was one of my best friends. We dance together on stage for years… I’m devastated. It is very hard to say something about [him] right now. But first he was a sunshine.’
Johanna Järventaus, Communications Director of Finnish National Opera and Ballet, said she was aware of the tragedy.
Pictured: Mr Crighton competing in the Helsinki International Ballet competition Final in 2016
A rescue team recovers the body of a victim from the site of the plane crash of a Yeti Airlines operated aircraft, in Pokhara, Nepal, on Monday
Rescuers pull the body of a victim who died in a Yeti Airlines plane crash in Pokhara on Monday
‘We’ve had a British-born dancer with the same name working at the Finnish National Ballet,’ she said.
‘I hope the authorities in Nepal will be able to formally identify the victims as soon as possible. We’d prefer not to make any public statement at this point.’
A BBC news article from 2008 stated that Mr Crighton was ‘set for stardom’.
‘His love of ballet started out at a young age when he was introduced to dance during a gymnastics class,’ it read. ‘Then at 12-years-old he decided to take ballet lessons at Brentwoods Central School of Dance and Drama.’
‘He is now furthering his career at London’s Central School of Ballet where he will leave with a degree in Professional Dance and Performance.
‘Ruan has already taken his first leap to a professional career by accepting a job offer with the Slovakian National Ballet and will move to Slovakia for when he graduates.’
Mr Crighton told the publication that he was looking forward to his new job with the Slovakian National Ballet.
‘I’m nervous because I don’t speak Slovak and I’ve only spent a day there but I’m really looking forward to spending a few years there and dancing as much as possible,’ he said.
Mr Crighton, a UK national, was named as one of the 72 people on board the flight by the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal.
Horrifying video showed the plane banking suddenly and sharply to the left as it approached the airport. A loud explosion followed
The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal listed Mr Crighton as an Irish national but a spokesman for Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed that he is a UK national.
The spokesman said: ‘The Department of Foreign Affairs can confirm that an individual indicated in reports as being Irish is a UK national. The UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) is providing consular support.
‘Our deepest sympathies go to all those who have been affected by this tragic plane crash.’
A Foreign Office spokesperson said: ‘We are supporting the family of a British man who has died in Nepal and are in contact with the local authorities.’
Mr Crighton was named as one of the passengers on the doomed Yeti Airlines ATR 72 flight which plummeted into a steep gorge as it approached Pokhara, smashing into pieces and bursting into flames on impact in Nepal’s worst aviation disaster since 1992.
At least 69 of the 72 people aboard have been confirmed dead and officials believe the three missing were also killed.
It is not yet known what caused the crash, but investigators on Monday found both the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder which may help to determine what happened.
It comes as a video on social media – verified by agencies – showed the twin-propeller aircraft banking suddenly and sharply to the left as it approached Pokhara airport. A loud explosion followed.
‘We have collected 68 bodies so far. We are searching for four more bodies… We pray for a miracle. But, the hope of finding anyone alive is nil,’ Tek Bahadur KC, chief district officer in Taksi, said on Monday.
Mr Bahadur’s comments came after a video – broadcast on Facebook Live – appeared to show the final moments on board the flight.
Footage appeared to show the inside of the aircraft as it prepared to land in Pokhara, with one passengers seen smiling just moments before the disaster. The video, which was apparently taken by an Indian man called Sonu Jaiswal, shows passengers smiling as the plane flies over houses.
A rescue team works to recover the body of a victim from the site of the plane crash of a Yeti Airlines operated aircraft, in Pokhara on Monday
Family members mourn the death of a victim of the plane crash of a Yeti Airlines operated aircraft, in Pokhara, Nepal, on Monday
The Yeti Airlines logo is visible over Mr Jaiswal’s shoulder and a Nepalese insurance advert can be seen on the airline’s tray. The clip continues, before the camera suddenly starts to shake and passengers are heard shouting. It then goes black with a loud bang, before flames light up the frame.
Nepal, which has a poor record on air safety, observed a day of mourning on Monday for the victims.
Nepal’s air industry has boomed in recent years, carrying goods and passengers between hard-to-reach areas, as well as ferrying tourists and foreign mountain climbers.
The country’s poor record due to insufficient training and maintenance has led the European Union to ban all Nepali carriers from its airspace over safety concerns.
Nepal also has some of the world’s most remote and difficult runways, flanked by snow-capped peaks with approaches that pose a challenge even to the most accomplished pilots.
The weather is also notoriously capricious and hard to forecast, particularly in the mountains, where thick fog can suddenly obscure whole mountains from view.
Nepal’s deadliest aviation accident took place in 1992, when all 167 people on a Pakistan International Airlines jet died when it crashed on approach to Kathmandu.
Today, at the site in Pokhara, debris was seen strewn across the crash site, including mangled passenger seats and the plane’s white fuselage.
Soldiers used ropes and stretchers to retrieve bodies from the 1,000-foot deep ravine late into the night on Sunday, with recovery efforts resuming this morning.
Footage appears to show the plane flying over houses in the town in the central region of Nepal moments before the crash (pictured left). Right: A passenger films a video as the plane flies over houses as it comes in to land
Footage appears to show the flight descending towards the new airport moments before the crash on Sunday
There were 72 people on board the aircraft, including 15 foreigners: five Indians, four Russians, two South Koreans, and one passenger each from Argentina, Australia, France and Ireland. The rest were Nepalese.
One of the passengers feared dead is Myron William Love, a teacher and keen traveller from Sydney. Mr Love’s family were said to still be holding out hope that he survived.
Mr Love was among 15 non-Nepalese nationals on board the domestic flight from Kathmandu, along with five Indians, four Russians, one Irish national, two South Koreans, one French national and an Argentinian.
A relative of Mr Love declined to comment until Australian embassy officials made an announcement. ‘We’re not saying anything until the consulate has confirmed the body.’
‘Incredibly sad news out of Nepal of a plane crashing with many passengers on board,’ Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on Monday, adding that his government was seeking information about the Australian national on board.
Nepal’s Civil Aviation Authority said it is not known what caused the disaster as of yet. The aviation authority said the aircraft last made contact with the airport from near Seti Gorge at 10.50am local time (5.05am GMT) before crashing.
The ATR 72 was on a flight from the capital Kathmandu and plunged into the gorge between Pokhara’s new international airport and the old domestic airport shortly before 11:00am Nepal time on Sunday.
One of the passengers feared dead is Myron William Love (pictured), a teacher and traveller from Sydney
‘I was walking when I heard a loud blast, like a bomb went off,’ said witness Arun Tamu, 44, who was around 500 metres away from the site and live-streamed footage of the blazing wreckage on social media.
‘A few of us rushed to see if we could rescue anybody. I saw at least two women were breathing. The fire was getting very intense and it made it difficult for us to approach closer,’ the former soldier told AFP.
It is unclear if anyone on the ground was injured.
‘Our first thoughts are with all the individuals affected by this,’ the plane’s France-based manufacturer ATR said in a statement on Sunday. ‘ATR specialists are fully engaged to support both the investigation and the customer.’
A witness watching from the terrace of his house said he saw the aircraft spinning violently in the air after it began its descent.
Local resident Bishnu Tiwari, who rushed to the crash site near the Seti River to help search for bodies, said the rescue efforts were hampered by thick smoke and a raging fire.
A rescue team recovers the body of a victim from the site of the plane crash in Pokhara
Local resident Bishnu Tiwari, who rushed to the crash site near the Seti River to help search for bodies, said the rescue efforts were hampered by thick smoke and a raging fire
‘The flames were so hot that we couldn’t go near the wreckage. I heard a man crying for help, but because of the flames and smoke we couldn’t help him,’ Tiwari said.
‘Half of the plane is on the hillside,’ said Arun Tamu, the local resident, who told Reuters he reached the site minutes after the plane went down. ‘The other half has fallen into the gorge of the Seti.’
Khum Bahadur Chhetri said he watched from the roof of his house as the flight approached.
‘I saw the plane trembling, moving left and right, and then suddenly its nose dived and it went into the gorge,’ Chhetri told Reuters, claiming that local residents took two passengers to a hospital.
Images and videos shared on Twitter showed plumes of smoke billowing from the crash site about a mile away from Pokhara International Airport. The aircraft’s fuselage was split into multiple parts that were scattered down the gorge.
Firefighters carried bodies, some burned beyond recognition, to hospitals where grief-stricken relatives had assembled.
At Kathmandu airport, distraught family members at times exchanged heated words with officials as they waited for information.
It came as the first victim was named as Russian travel blogger Elena Banduro, who had posted the message ‘Go to Nepal’ excitedly before the flight.
On social media today the 33-year-old was described as ‘the brightest, kindest soul we knew’.
Three other Russians died on the flight, named as Viktoria Altunina, Yuri Lugin and Viktor Lagin.
Earlier the Russian ambassador to Nepal, Alexei Novikov, confirmed that four Russians had died on board.
‘Unfortunately, four citizens of the Russian Federation died,’ he said.
‘We are in constant contact with the Nepalese authorities and will provide all necessary assistance to the relatives of the dead Russians.’
Family members and relatives of victims weep outside a hospital in Pokhara on January 16, 2023
Rescue teams work to retrieve bodies from the wreckage of the crash in Pokhara
Nepal Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who rushed to Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu after the crash, has set up a panel to investigate the accident.
‘The incident was tragic. The full force of the Nepali army and police has been deployed for rescue,’ he said.
‘We expect to recover more bodies,’ said army spokesman Krishna Bhandari. ‘The plane has broken into pieces.’