Sixteen passengers and three crew members who were heading towards Lukla, gateway to Mt Everest, were killed when the small aircraft belonging to Sita Airways crashed two minutes after it took off at 6:15 am (local time), airport officials said. 

The plane had caught fire as soon as it took off and it crashed at the bank of the Manahara river in Koteshwor region, near a slum area, just 2-3 km south of the airport, the officials said.

All the passengers are said to be foreigners and most of them are Italian tourists, according to preliminary reports. The crew members are identified as Captain Bijaya Tandukar, co-Pilot Takeshi Thapa and airhostess Ruja Shakya.