WWII vintage plane crashes into Swiss mountainside, 20 dead

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FLIMS, Switzerland, Aug 5, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – Twenty people died after a
vintage World War II aircraft crashed into a Swiss mountainside at the
weekend, police said Sunday.

“The police have the sad certainty that the 20 people aboard perished,”
police spokeswoman Anita Senti told a news conference.

There were 11 men and nine women aboard, including an Austrian couple and
their son, she said.

The German-built Junker JU52 HB-HOT aircraft, dating from 1939 and nickamed
“Iron Annie”, was a collectors’ aircraft.

It crashed into Piz Segnas, a 3,000-metre (10,000-foot) peak in the east of
the country on Saturday at an altitude of 2,540 metres on the mountain’s
western flank, Senti said.

According to German-language newspaper Blick, the flight had taken off from
Ticino in the south of the country and had been due to land at the Duebendorf
military airfield near Zurich on Saturday afternoon.

Swiss reports said the passengers were returning from Locarno, a holiday
spot in southern Switzerland on Lake Maggiore, where they had arrived early
Friday.

The 20 Minutes newspaper quoted a witness who was on the mountainside at
the time of the crash.

“The plane turned 180 degrees to the south and fell to the ground like a
stone,” the witness said, adding that the debris was scattered over “a very
small area” — indicating that an explosion was unlikely to have been the
cause of the crash.

Andreas Tobler, Grisons canton chief of police said there was “no longer
any hope of finding anyone alive.”

An investigation has been launched into the cause of the accident.

As this kind of collectors’ aircraft is not equipped with “black box”
flight data and voice recorders, investigators must rely on eyewitness
accounts and analysis of debris.

Daniel Knech of the Swiss safety investigation service SESE said the crew
did not have time to send out a distress signal. He said hot weather
conditions did not contribute to the crash.

The aircraft belongs to JU-Air, a company with links to the Swiss air
force, the ATS news agency reported.

JU-Air CEO Kurt Waldmeier told reporters that the plane had undergone
maintenance inspection in July.

– ‘Deeply saddened’ –

JU-Air said on its website that it was “deeply saddened” and its “thoughts
were with the passengers, the crew and families and friends of the victims”.

The company’s flight operations were suspended, it said.

JU-Air says it runs a small fleet of four Junker planes, all built in 1939,
which are for hire. Its pilots are ex-military and professional pilots, all
of them volunteers.

The Junker JU52 is made of corrugated steel and was built by the German
firm Junkers from the 1930s to 1950s. It was used as a military transport
plane as well as a bomber during World War II.

On its website, JU-Air mentions one past accident, in 1987, at the Koblenz
airport in Germany in which no one was hurt.

In another Swiss plane crash on Saturday, a tourist plane carrying a couple
and two young children crashed in a forest in the Nidwald canton and
immediately burst into flames. No survivors have been found.

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