1. ITV Report

UK team to probe Nepalese air crash

Stephen Holding (left) and his wife Maggie Holding. Photo: Staffordshire Police/PA Wire

Air accident investigators from the UK are heading to Nepal to investigate the plane crash which killed seven Britons, as reports emerged that it may have been caused by pilot error.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said it was sending two staff to assist local authorities probing the disaster which in total killed 19 people.

The Dornier twin-engine propeller plane crashed two minutes after take-off from Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport, with initial reports suggesting a bird strike as a cause.

However, Nepalese officials are reported to have said they believe it was a pilot error which caused it to come down.

Ben Ogden. Credit: Allen & Overy/PA Wire

In a short statement on its website, the AAIB said:

The AAIB is sending two investigators to assist the Nepal investigation into the recent accident near Kathmandu airport.

The British group, who arrived in Nepal on Wednesday and were due to begin trekking in the Himalayas yesterday, were travelling with Hampshire-based travel company Explore Worldwide.

They were named as Raymond Eagle, 58, from Macclesfield, Cheshire, Timothy Oakes, 57, from Winwick, near Warrington, and his friend Stephen Holding, 60, from Stoke-on-Trent.

Vincent Kelly, 50, from Lostock, Bolton, and his brother Darren, 45, who moved from Bolton to the village of Isle of Whithorn in southern Galloway a few years ago, Christopher Davey, 51, from Northampton, and lawyer Benjamin Ogden, 27, from London also perished.

Mr Holding's wife Maggie said her husband and his friend Mr Oakes had been planning to trek around the areas of the Everest base camp.

In a statement released by Staffordshire Police, Mrs Holding said:

Steve always loved being in the mountains. He had done a lot of work with Peak Pursuits taking youngsters on Duke of Edinburgh activities.

Peak Pursuits is an outdoor pursuits company based in Audley, Staffordshire. Staffordshire Police confirmed family liaison officers representing the FCO were currently supporting Mr Holding's family.

Mr Ogden's girlfriend Stephanie Illingworth told The Times today that she had lost her "soulmate".

He was my soulmate, my best friend, my everything. We were going to get married, have a family and grow old together and I was so lucky to have him in my life - he was perfect. My whole world has now been turned upside down because he was my entire universe.

Vincent Kelly. Credit: Bolton Lads & Girls Club/PA Wire

The plane, belonging to Nepal's domestic airline Sita Air, crashed at about 6.15am local time.It was heading east towards Lukla, the gateway to Mount Everest and a popular destination for trekkers.

Five Chinese people, three Nepalese passengers and four crew members were also killed.

The pilot reported trouble two minutes after take-off, and Tribhuvan International Airport official

Ratish Chandra Suman said the plane appeared to have been trying to turn back to the airport.Witnesses said they heard screaming coming from inside the plane before it crashed into a field and said it was already on fire before it hit the ground.

Explore Worldwide, the company the victims were travelling through, said today that a representative had arrived in Nepal to provide support to staff and other tour groups in the country.

The Foreign Office declined to comment on when the bodies of the seven Britons might be returned to the United Kingdom.

Thousands of Westerners head to the Himalayas every year to trek in the region around Mount Everest, the world's highest peak.Autumn is considered the best time to trek in the area.

The crash follows an avalanche on another Nepal peak on Sunday that killed seven foreign climbers and a Nepalese guide.

It is also almost a year to the day since another plane crash in Nepal that killed all 19 people on board, although none were Britons.