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Old-time plane crashes in Swiss Alps, killing 20 on board

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By GEIR MOULSON, AP
BERLIN

An old-time propeller plane crashed near-vertically at high speed into a Swiss mountain, killing all 20 people on board, police said Sunday.

The Junkers Ju-52 plane, operated by the Swiss company Ju-Air, went down Saturday on the Piz Segnas mountain above the Alpine resort of Flims, striking the mountain’s western flank about 2,540 meters (8,330 feet) above sea level. The mountainous area in southeastern Switzerland is popular with hikers and skiers and includes a glacier.

[post_ads]Police said Sunday they have now determined that all 20 people on board the plane, including its three crew members, died.

Eleven men and nine women between the ages of 42 and 84 were killed. Most of the victims were Swiss but they also included a couple and their son from Austria.

Photos released by Graubuenden canton (state) police showed the crumpled wreckage of the plane lying on the mountain, with only the upside-down tail more or less intact.

Police said they are not aware of any distress call from the aircraft before it crashed.

Daniel Knecht of the Swiss Transportation Safety Investigation Board said the plane appears to have hit the ground near-vertically and at high speed.


Speaking Sunday at a news conference in Flims, he said the vintage plane presumably didn’t have the crash-resistant cockpit voice and data recorders that more modern aircraft have.

Officials can essentially rule out a collision with another aircraft or hitting an obstacle such as a wire, and there’s no indication of foul play or that the aircraft lost parts or broke up before the crash, he added.

He said that officials expect the investigation of the cause to be “relatively complex.”
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The plane was flying the passengers back from a two-day trip to Locarno in southern Switzerland to its base at Duebendorf, near Zurich. Authorities were informed of the crash at 5 p.m. Saturday, 50 minutes after the aircraft had taken off from Locarno’s Magadino airfield.


Nearly 5,000 Ju-52 planes, a product of Germany’s Junkers, were manufactured between 1932 and 1952.

Ju-Air’s Ju-52 planes are former Swiss military aircraft, built in 1939, that were retired by the air force in 1981.
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Ju-Air started operating flights with the old-timers in 1983, and the plane that crashed — with the registration HB-HOT — had been in service with the company since 1985.

The aircraft have three engines, one on the nose and one on each wing.

The company, which operates two other Ju-52s, suspended flights until further notice after the crash.


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