Old-time plane crashes in Swiss Alps
A vintage propeller plane plunged near-vertically into a Swiss mountain, killing all 20 people on board as they returned from a two-day trip to southern Switzerland, investigators said Sunday.
The Junkers Ju-52 plane, operated by small Swiss company Ju-Air, went down Saturday on the Piz Segnas mountain above the Alpine resort of Flims in the country's southeast, at an altitude of about 2,540 metres (8,330 feet) above sea level.
There was no immediate word on the cause of the crash, and officials said they expect a complex investigation given that the 79-year-old plane was not equipped with black boxes.
Police said Sunday they had determined that the 17 passengers and three crew members on board the plane all died.
The victims were 11 men and nine women between the ages of 42 and 84 seven couples from various parts of Switzerland, a couple from neighbouring Austria and their son, and the three crew members. Their names were not released.
The fully booked plane was flying the passengers back to its base at Duebendorf, near Zurich, from a two-day trip to Switzerland's Italian-speaking southern Ticino region. It crashed shortly before 5 p.m. Saturday, less than 50 minutes after taking off from Locarno's Magadino airfield.
Photos released by Graubuenden 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 were not aware of any distress call from the aircraft before it crashed.
"We can assume that the aircraft hit the ground near-vertically and at relatively high speed," Daniel Knecht of the Swiss Transportation Safety Investigation Board said at a news conference in Flims.
Plane lacked black boxes
He and senior police official Andreas Tobler said the vintage plane lacked black boxes, the crash-resistant cockpit voice and data recorders that more modern aircraft have.
Knecht said officials expect the investigation of the cause to be 'relatively complex because we have to compare various indications, information and evidence and evaluate them".
There also are typically few radar recordings in mountainous areas such as the one where the crash site is located, he added.
Officials can essentially rule out a collision with another aircraft or an obstacle such as a wire, Knecht said. There also was no indication of any "external influence", he said, indicating that authorities don't suspect foul play.