The Nepal plane crash which killed 72 people including a talented Essex ballet dancer was caused by a pilot accidentally pulling the wrong levers, an inquest has heard.

“Extraordinary” Ruan Crighton, from Brentwood, was travelling on board the twin-engine propeller aircraft from Kathmandu to Pokhara International Airport in the Himalayan foothills when it plummeted into a gorge about a mile from the runway in January 2023.

One of the pilots mistakenly changed the propeller angle instead of that of the wing flaps on the ATR-72 plane – which was seen by witnesses “banking sharply” before “sinking rapidly” towards the ground, an inquest into the 34-year-old’s death at London North Coroner’s Court in Barnet heard.

Feathering – the technical term for turning the angle of the propeller blades parallel – is normally only done in an emergency when an engine has failed, and would have resulted in the plane having no thrust, an expert told the inquest.

Physiotherapy student Mr Crighton – who toured Europe as a professional ballet dancer – had been living in Nepal with his French girlfriend while completing a placement at a spinal injury clinic in Kathmandu, the inquest was told.

The day after his birthday, the “adored” dancer was taking a “well-earned trip into the mountains” when the tragedy occurred.

The plane was carrying 68 passengers, including 15 foreign nationals, and four crew members.

In a pen portrait read to the inquest, Mr Crighton’s family said he would be “missed beyond words”.

“It became clear from an early age that Ruan was gifted”, the tribute said of Mr Crighton, who competed in gymnastics at a national level before training as a ballet dancer from the age of 14.

“We are all beyond heartbroken by this terrible tragedy.

“We are so proud of what he achieved.

“He was witty, charming, quick and so generous. He was adored by all who met him.

“We couldn’t wait to see him and learn all about his latest adventures.”

The Yeti Airlines aircraft had been operating shuttle flights and was on its third trip of the day when the tragedy occurred, the inquest heard.

The pilots “sustained a loss of control” and eyewitnesses at Pokhara International Airport noticed it was flying at a low altitude before it fell from the sky.

Mr Crighton suffered fatal blunt force injuries during the crash, North London area coroner Tony Murphy said.

Concluding the inquest, Mr Murphy said the dancer had died “as a consequence of an aircraft accident”.

“He was an exceptional person and is much missed by his family and friends,” he added.