19 dead in crash of plane carrying tourists to Everest staging post

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NEW: UK Foreign Office confirms the death of seven British nationals

The dead also include Chinese and Nepalese people, an airline official says

The plane collided with an eagle before it crashed, an airport official says

The British passengers were booked on a hike to Everest, a tour company says

Kathmandu, Nepal CNN  — 

A plane carrying tourists and others to a staging point for Mount Everest expeditions crashed Friday after striking an eagle on takeoff, killing all 19 people aboard, Nepali authorities said.

The Sita Air flight from the Nepali capital of Kathmandu to the village of Lukla was carrying 16 passengers – seven from the UK, five from China and four from Nepal – in addition to the three-member crew, airline official Sameer Neupane said.

The Dornier-built aircraft went down just two minutes after taking off from Kathmandu’s international airport, China’s state-run Xinhau news service reported Friday, citing Naryan Bastakoti, the deputy inspector general of Nepal Police at the airport.

The plane crashed on the bank of the Maohara River in Bhaktapur District, Nepal’s Civil Aviation Authority said.

Images from the scene showed emergency workers surrounding the plane’s charred remains, trying to extinguish flames.

The flight was headed for Lukla, a village in northeastern Nepal that is the starting point for many expeditions to Mount Everest, the world’s tallest peak. This is the high season for visitors to the Everest region.

While the crash remains under investigation, it appears the plane’s collision with a black eagle was a factor, according to Ratish Chandra Lal Suman, general manager of Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu.

Officials have recovered the plane’s flight data recorder, he said.

The UK Foreign Office confirmed that seven British nationals were on the flight. China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also confirmed the death of five Chinese nationals.

The Britons were booked on a trek with Sherpa Adventure Travels, said Sonam Sherpa, the manager of the trekking company. The 13-day hike would have taken the tourists to the base camp at Everest and back to Lukla, Sherpa said.

A U.S.-based company, Explore Worldwide, also issued a statement Friday saying that the British tourists were customers of the company and that a member of the company’s Nepalese staff was among those killed.

It appeared that Explore had partnered with Sherpa Adventure Travels to conduct the trip.

Plane crashes are not uncommon in Nepal. A small plane crashed in a mountainous area of the country in May, killing 15 of the 21 people on board.

And a year ago, a plane returning to Kathmandu from a sightseeing tour hit a mountain and broke into pieces. All 19 passengers on board died, including two Americans.

CNN’s CY Xu in Beijing and Jethro Mullen in Hong Kong contributed to this report.