NEW DELHI -- Four Americans -- including two Utah women -- were among 14 people killed Tuesday when a small plane crashed in Nepal in bad weather, officials say.
The Provo firm of Howard, Lewis & Petersen says 49-year-old office manager Leuzi (LOO'-zee) Cardoso and 40-year-old paralegal Heather Finch died in the crash.
A partner in the firm says the two women were on vacation together and planned to hike to the Mount Everest base camp.
In 2009, Finch received the fourth annual Distinguished Paralegal of the Year Award from the Paralegal Division and the Legal Assistants Association of Utah.
Her profile on the law firm's website says her father was in the Air Force and was assigned to Hill Air Force Base, where he retired.
The 15-seat Dornier 228 twin turboprop operated by Agni Air was headed for the town of Lukla, a popular spot for hikers, around 7:15 a.m. when it was advised by air traffic control to turn back due to thick cloud cover, said Bishnu Dulal, the airline's reservations manager.
The flight to the 9,200-foot elevation town normally takes about 25 minutes.
By the time it approached Katmandu, however, the capital also was socked in, so the pilot headed for Simra airport. Before the plane reached there, however, it crashed near Shikharpur village, about 50 miles south of Katmandu.
Tri Ratna Manandhar, of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, said all 11 passengers and three crew members aboard were killed. Eight on the plane were Nepalese.
"It has been raining very heavily for some days," Dulal said. "Weather was the reason for the crash."
Agni Air identified the Americans, all tourists, as Cardoso; Finch; Irina Shekhets, 30; and Kendra Fallon, 18. Yuki Hayashe, 19, of Japan, and Jeremy Taylor, 30, of Britain, were also killed.
The Times of India reported that another Western tourist, who only gave her name as E. Wols, was scheduled to board the 7:04 a.m. flight but missed it.
The rescue coordination office at Katmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport said in a statement that soldiers reached the crash site on foot and were retrieving the bodies but that rescue helicopters had not been able to reach the area due to low visibility and continued rain.
Ram Bahadur Gole, a villager who witnessed the accident, told the Avenues Television news channel that the plane broke into several pieces on impact and scattered across the hillside.
Agni Air officials said helicopters were only able to land a mile or two away and that the battered condition of the bodies made early identification difficult.
A statement by the U.S. Embassy in Katmandu offered condolences to the victims' families and said relatives of the American victims had been notified.
Nepal has a history of aviation safety concerns, said Kapil Kaul, New Delhi-based chief executive with the Center for Asia Pacific Aviation, and many of the passengers probably thought little about the hazards.
"Tourists, especially backpackers, tend to take safety for granted," he said. "And in Nepal, they're mostly backpackers."
About 270 Dornier 228 aircraft have been built in Germany and India since 1981, of which about 120 remain in service. The U.S.-based Aviation Safety Network said on its website that 29 had been lost in various accidents resulting in a total of 122 fatalities.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal said it was assembling a five-member committee to investigate the crash and submit its report within 65 days. In a 2009 audit, the International Civil Aviation Organization rated Nepal below global average in all critical categories of safety oversight.