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Ceremony commemorates Überlingen crash

Red roses are fixed to the wreckage of the crashed Russian Tupolev lying in a field near Lake Constance in 2002 Keystone

Relatives of the victims of a 2002 mid-air collision in Swiss-controlled airspace are commemorating the fifth anniversary of the disaster late on Sunday.

This content was published on July 1, 2007 - 14:01

A court in Switzerland is due to announce its verdict in September against employees of the traffic control agency Skyguide accused of negligent manslaughter.

Seventy-one people, mainly children and teenagers, died when a Russian passenger plane and a cargo jet collided near Lake Constance. It was the worst crash in Swiss-controlled air space in recent years.

Just over 30 people from the Russian republic of Bashkortostan are expected to take part in the service at the memorial in the German town of Überlingen before midnight on Sunday.

The number of participants in the ceremony is lower than expected. The Russian government reportedly cancelled a flight which was due to take about 100 people to Germany.

The authorities apparently did not elaborate on the ban.

Among the participants in the gathering is also the director of Skyguide.

Many victims' families are still seeking financial compensation, while others accepted an out-of court settlement. The money came from a joint fund set up by Switzerland, Germany and the traffic control agency.

Legal cases

Several legal cases are pending in Switzerland, Germany and Spain – the destination of one of the planes.

Next week a court in Constance, Germany, will hear a case brought by a Swiss insurance company against Bashkirian Airlines seeking €2.5 million (SFr4.1 million) in damages.

A first civil lawsuit concluded that Germany and Skyguide might have to pay millions of dollars in compensation to the airline.

At the beginning of September a Swiss court is due to announce its verdict in the trial against eight employees of Skyguide accused of negligent manslaughter and negligent disruption of public transport.

The defendants denied the charges.

A Russian who lost his wife and children in the crash is currently was sentenced to eight years in jail for stabbing the air controller on duty at the time of the accident.

On a political level, the transport ministry reorganised the Federal Aviation Office and the Swiss government called for additional staff for the aviation authority. However, the proposal is blocked in parliament.

An air transport agreement between Germany and Switzerland was also rejected by parliament in 2003 amid concern over liability issues.

swissinfo with agencies

Chronology

On July 1, 2002 a Russian passenger plane collided with a cargo jet over Swiss-controlled airspace above Überlingen in southern Germany, killing 71 people.

In their May 2004 report, German investigators said the accident was due largely to negligence on the part of Skyguide, and partially the fault of the two Russian pilots.

Skyguide subsequently admitted partial responsibility and 30 victims' families were paid financial compensation. Others received a payment in an out-of-court settlement.

A relative of three victims took revenge on a controller on duty at the time of the accident by stabbing him to death at his home in Zurich in February 2004.

A Zurich court found Russian architect Vitaly Kaloyev guilty of the intentional killing of the controller and sentenced him to eight years in prison in 2005. The final verdict is still pending.

Several lawsuits are still pending, including the cases against eight Skyguide employees accused of negligent manslaughter. A verdict is expected on September 4, 2007.

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