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Captain of crashed Q400 suffered 'breakdown' in cockpit

Investigators probing the fatal US-Bangla Airlines Bombardier Q400 landing accident at Kathmandu last year have disclosed that the captain of the flight had previously suffered with depression.

He had been released from the Bangladesh air force in 1993 as a result of the illness.

But the Nepalese inquiry into the US-Bangla crash states that, during routine annual medical evaluations at the airline, he was assessed as being fit to fly and free from any symptoms.

None of the medical examination reports reviewed by the investigators mentioned any signs of depression, the inquiry says.

Nor did an autopsy find any evidence of prescription medication commonly used in its treatment. Toxicological analyses similarly showed no evidence of alcohol or narcotics.

The inquiry nevertheless says the captain, who was flying the ill-fated Q400, had been disturbed and “under stress” during the service, believing that a colleague had “questioned his reputation” as an instructor.

During the flight, it says, the captain engaged in “lengthy one-way conversation” with the first officer about this situation.

“As this conversation regarding the [colleague] was repeated several times during the flight, the captain definitely seemed very much emotionally disturbed and stressed,” the inquiry found, even suggesting that he was smoking in the cockpit.

“At times the captain even seemed to have emotional breakdown.”

The first officer, who was operating the route for the first time, had acted as a “patient listener”, says the inquiry.

But it adds that the two pilots had a steep authority gradient, which probably contributed to a lack of assertiveness over the handling of the flight and a failure by the first officer to suggest or initiate corrective measures.

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