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Investigation into Crossair crash resumes

The crash killed 24 people; nine survived Keystone

Investigators on Monday have returned to the site where a Crossair jet crashed late on Saturday, killing 24 of the 33 people aboard. They are trying to determine why the plane was flying so low on its approach to Zurich airport.

The flight data and voice recorders, known as the “black boxes”, have already been recovered, and will be examined for clues as to why the plane crashed, about two kilometres from the runway.

Crossair Flight LX3597 from Berlin was attempting a landing in poor weather, when it slammed into a wooded area near Bassersdorf, in canton Zurich.

Twenty-eight passengers and five crew were aboard; nine people survived. Zurich police said two of the survivors were in critical condition with serious burns.

Examining wreckage

The investigators have all but ruled out terrorism and other acts of foul play, and instead are concentrating on other possible causes for the crash, as they sift through the wreckage.

They planned to clear away the debris from the cabin on Monday to try and reconstruct the events and conditions at the time of the tragedy.

The crash dealt a serious blow to the Swiss airline industry, which is struggling to regain passenger confidence following the September 11 hijack attacks in the United States, and the financial collapse of the nation’s flagship, Swissair.

It was the second crash in less than two years for Crossair, which is to take over the bulk of Swissair’s routes by next April, and is to become the country’s new national carrier.

In January last year, a Saab 340 crashed near Zurich, killing all ten people on board.

During the night, police blocked off runway 28 at Zurich airport, where the RJ-100 jet, which has a capacity of 97-passengers, was to have landed, using instruments because of the bad weather and poor visibility.

Experienced pilot

Crossair said the 57-year-old pilot, who died along with his co-pilot, was among the airline’s most experienced captains.

“We need to explain why the pilot was flying so low,” Crossair spokesman, Patrick Jeandrain, told swissinfo. He noted that the plane was “around 300 metres too low, compared with a normal descent.”

A police statement said ten Swiss were on board, along with 13 Germans, including the pop singer, Melanie Thornton, a dual US national. There were also three Israelis, two Dutch and travellers from Austria, Sweden, Spain, Canada and Ghana.

“When will it end?”

Two hotlines have been set up for relatives and friends of those on board. Within Switzerland the number is 0800 707 507 and outside of the country 0041 1 534 67 67.

The head of Crossair, André Dose, said he was shocked by the tragedy and extended his sympathies to the victim’s families. “It’s a horrible scene and I can’t describe my feelings.”

Swiss President, Moritz Leuenberger, who is also transport minister, said it was “the fifth disaster Switzerland had experienced” recently.

“We are absolutely speechless after being dragged from one catastrophe to next,” he said. “Our grief is mixed with bitterness because it never seems to end.”

“When will it end?” he said in televised remarks on Sunday. “We need to see light at the end of the tunnel.”

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR