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Convicted helicopter pilots are acquitted

Remains of the Alouette III helicopter which crashed in Beuson five years ago

(Keystone)

The cantonal court in Valais has quashed prison sentences given to two Swiss pilots involved in a helicopter collision in which eight people died.

In December 2004 a district court found both pilots guilty of negligent homicide and handed down suspended prison sentences of three and five months.

Following its judgement on October 7, the court in Valais announced on Wednesday that the pilot who had been given a three-month sentence was exonerated and the other would have his sentence replaced by a SFr2,000 ($1,560) fine.

The two pilots had appealed against the verdict delivered last December by a district court in Sion, southwestern Switzerland.

The court also confirmed the acquittal of Bruno Bagnoud, head of the Air-Glaciers travel company, which operated the two helicopters that collided. The prosecution had originally sought a one-month suspended sentence for Bagnoud.

All three pleaded not guilty to the charge of negligent homicide, claiming that the pilot who died in the crash – in which seven Indian tourists also died – was to blame.

Sightseeing trip

The accident – the worst of its kind in Switzerland – happened on September 26, 2000.

The Indian tourists were among a party of around 150 who were taking five-minute sightseeing trips over the Swiss Alps in the Sion area.

Two helicopters – a Bell Jet Ranger and an Alouette III – collided as they were preparing to land and crashed onto a football field in the village of Beuson.

All six passengers and the Swiss pilot on board the Bell Jet Ranger died. One tourist on the Alouette was also killed in the crash.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Two pilots have been acquitted over a fatal helicopter crash that took place in September 2000.
In December 2004 a court found the pilots guilty of negligent homicide and gave them suspended prison sentences of three and five months.
The pilots pleaded innocent to the charges and subsequently appealed.
Seven Indian tourists, from Dehli, Ahmedabad in Gujarat state and Kanpur, were killed.
One Swiss pilot also died in the crash.

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