The Agni Air Dornier had taken off during a torrential downpour from Kathmandu on the morning of 24 August. It was bound for Lukla with 14 passengers from Nepal, UK, USA and Japan, and of the three crew members one was my daughter Sarah Sherpa, the flight attendant. Fifteen minutes after takeoff, Capt L P B "Lucky" Shah and Co-pilot Sophia Singh decided to return to Kathmandu due to poor visibility enroute.
Soon after, the plane's primary and backup generator failed, then the standby battery ran out. It is thought that without power, the cockpit instruments must have malfunctioned disorienting the pilots in heavy clouds. The aircraft came down about 20 miles south of Kathmandu in the village of Shikharpur of Makwanpur district. There were no survivors.
My wife Anju and I have lived and relived the memory of that devastating morning, and as the first anniversary of the crash approaches next week we are once more numbed by the loss of our precious Sarah.
Shikharpur is a bumpy three hour jeep ride east of Hetauda populated by subsistence farmers. In the past year, we have visited Shikharpur and decided to turn our sorrow into support for the people of the little village. At their request we have built a stupa at 'ground zero', which is only 20 metres away from the school that is also being upgraded.
My wife and I have been amazed by the outpouring of support and goodwill from friends, relatives and even those we don't know. Howard Fallon, father of 18-year-old Kendra Fallon who was in the same flight, initiated the project and has also set up an endowment at Asna Orphanage in Lamatar where his daughter had volunteered for two months before setting off on her trek.
All of us lost fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters and friends. We had raised Sarah with lots of love and affection, we invested all we could in her education. Now, she is only a memory. But it is a memory that we hope will live on in the hearts of the children of Shkharpur as they grow up.
We have also received help from many friends. Agni Air's Sudip Basnyat has offered to contribute for Shikharpur's education fund through a portion of every air ticket. We were hoping that the embassies of the nationals who died would chip in for the school expansion, but that hasn't materialised yet.
The new SKY building (named after Sarah, Kendra and Yuki, pictured left) is coming up and will have new spacious and bright classrooms. The stupa is complete, and the village is getting a drinking water supply.
No one is immortal, but we can contribute to the future by investing in children.We hope that the stupa will be around for a long time to come to remind us of those who left us.
Shikharpur Buddhist Monument and Bakiya Thakur School Committee +977 9851018820
Hotel Echo's last minutes, DAMBAR KRISHNA SHRESTHA
The last 26 minutes of Agni Air's 'Hotel Echo' (9N-AHE)