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Switzerland holds memorial service for Crossair victims

Wreaths are placed in front of Basel cathedral in memory of the 24 victims who died in Saturday's Crossair crash Keystone

A memorial service to remember the 24 people who died in the Crossair crash last Saturday was held on Thursday.

Kaspar Villiger, Switzerland’s finance minister, is representing the government at Basel’s cathedral, joined by diplomatic representatives from the victims’ home countries. These include Germany and the United States.

Relatives of the victims formed a large part of the congregation. The service was broadcast live to Zurich, Geneva and Lugano airports.

Black boxes

Investigators have said that the “black boxes” of the Crossair jet revealed the dialogue between the pilot and his copilot.

The conversation could be clearly heard, Jean Overney, chief investigator of the Swiss Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (BFU) said on Wednesday.

Members of the crew were equipped with microphones, which explains the good quality of the sound registered on the flight voice recorder, which, along with the flight data recorder, is referred to as a “black box” containing flight information.

Examination in Paris

The recorders have been examined in Paris.

Crossair flight LX3507 from Berlin crashed late Saturday in a wooded area as it approached a Zurich airport runway during poor weather. Twenty-four of the 33 people on the plane were killed. Nine people survived.

One of the questions investigators have sought to answer is whether the flight captain, a highly experienced, 57-year-old pilot, or the co-pilot, 25, was at the controls.

Although that information is now available, it has not yet been made public.

Wreckage transported

Members of the Swiss aircraft investigation team who travelled to Paris to receive the new information from the recorders are not expected to return to Switzerland until late on Thursday, or early on Friday.

On Wednesday afternoon, the wreckage of the Jumbolino jet was taken to Pfungen, in canton Zurich, where the pieces will be systematically and carefully inventoried, Overney said.

Investigators will reconstruct certain parts of the plane. “We are preparing to lead, if necessary, an ambitious investigation,” Overney emphasized.

Meanwhile, Crossair on Wednesday finished examining its fleet of Jumbolino planes. No significant defects were detected, said Andreas Schwander, Crossair spokesman.

Particular care was taken in analysing radar systems and the cockpit equipment, he said.

The company’s entire fleet passed the inspection, Schwander said.

German claims

Meanwhile in Germany, the Cologne-based lawyer, Gerhart Baum, said he would represent some of the victims’ families in their bid to seek compensation for the crash.

Baum declined to say how many relatives would pursue claims against Crossair and the Swiss government and how much money they sought.

Baum is no stranger to airline compensation claims. Last year, he represented families seeking pay-outs following the crash of a Concorde outside the French capital, Paris.

Crossair said on Monday it planned to offer SFr30,000 ($18,200) in compensation to the surviving passengers and the families of those who died, as well as meeting the treatment costs for the injured.

In another development, the final report of a previous Crossair crash in January, 2000 will be delayed.

The findings of more than 18 months of investigation into the crash in Nassenwil in canton Zurich, were to have been published by the end of 2001.

Officials said the delay was to meet the immediate needs of the recent crash and to handle the large amount of work involved.

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