10 die in crash of Swiss plane

Associated Press

ZURICH, Switzerland — A Swiss airliner with 33 people on board crashed Saturday night as it was approaching Zurich Airport to land. At least 10 people were killed and nine others were pulled from the wreckage, officials said.

Local authorities issued an urgent appeal for local residents to join the search for survivors from the Crossair Jumbolino, which went down in a wooded area in the suburb of Birchwil, some two miles east of the airport.

"The first reports spoke of a fireball in a wooded area. We can assume there was a strong fire," Zurich police spokesman Karl Steiner told German television.

The cause of the crash — the second for Crossair in less than two years — was not immediately known.

However, two experts quoted on state-run Swiss television said the plane appeared to be too low on its approach. Weather conditions were poor when Flight LX3597 went down just after 10 p.m. in mixed rain and snow. Crossair chief Andre Dose said there were no indications that terrorism was to blame.

On board the Avro RJ-100 Jumbolino from Berlin to Zurich were 28 passengers and five crew members, said Manfred Winkler, spokesman for Crossair, a subsidiary of the financially troubled Swissair Group.

Hans Baltenberger, a local police official, told Swiss television that at least 10 people had been killed and nine others rescued from a forested area near the airport.

The plane was approaching runway 28, a new night landing strip that began operating a month ago following an agreement by the Swiss transport ministry to limit overflight noise above nearby Germany.

A fireball engulfed the middle part of the plane after the crash, but the cockpit and tail areas were largely unscathed, local police and airport officials said. There were unconfirmed reports that the flight recorders had been recovered.

Winkler said there had never been any known problems with the plane, which is also known as an Avro RJ and is manufactured by Britain’s BAE Aircraft Services Group.

A Jumbolino is a small, four-engine jetliner that Crossair flies in two versions, one with 82 passenger seats and the other with 97.

The crash was sure to add to the woes of Swissair.

Once the proud national flag flyer, Swissair last month suffered the indignity of having its planes grounded because the company could no longer pay fuel and landing fees. Although the government and industry has since stepped in, the airline is still struggling to recover customer confidence and to fill empty seats.

A Crossair Saab340 crashed shortly after takeoff from Zurich on Jan. 10, 2000, killing all 10 people on board. The plane was headed to the German city of Dresden.

Copyright ©2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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