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Crash victim families to receive compensation

An overhead view of the crashed Tupolev passenger jet in southern Germany.

(Keystone)

Switzerland, Germany and the Swiss air traffic control agency, Skyguide, are to set up a compensation fund for the relatives of those who died in a plane crash last year.

No official figures were released on how much each party would contribute to the fund.

The mid-air crash on July 1, 2002, of a Russian passenger plane and a DHL cargo jet in Swiss-controlled airspace claimed 71 lives.

The Bashkirian Airlines jet was carrying over 40 Russian schoolchildren en route to Spain when it collided with the cargo plane while flying over Überlingen in southern Germany.

"I think that both governments will pay the same amount ... but in terms of actual figures I cannot comment," said Skyguide spokesman, Patrick Herr.

In April, lawyers representing relatives of the victims who died in the crash called on the Swiss and German governments – together with Skyguide, the airlines and their insurers - to pay SFr150 million into a compensation fund.

Compensation fund

Germany’s “Stuttgarter Zeitung” reported on Friday that Berlin has agreed to pay $10 million (SFr13.5 million) into the fund.

Michael Witti, one of the lawyers representing some of the relatives of the victims, said his clients were not happy with the fund. He added that the relatives were not being fairly compensated.

He told swissinfo that attorneys were sticking to their demand of €1.5 million per person killed in the crash.

"Whether or not we have to take this case to court depends on the amount of money in the fund,” Witti said.

Herr said there would be further negotiations between all parties involved, and did not rule out the possibility of a class action suit.

The fund is aimed at avoiding a lengthy legal battle over the payment of compensation.

“With this basic agreement now reached, negotiations will now be held to ensure that appropriate compensation is awarded to the bereaved and others affected by the accident,” Skyguide said in a statement.

For months, Germany and Switzerland have been wrangling over issues of responsibility for the crash.

No comment

Swiss finance ministry spokesman, Daniel Eckmann, declined to comment on the amount of compensation likely to be made available.

But the ministry said in a statement that the establishment of the fund was the basis for a “quick and fair agreement”.

In the twelve months since the accident, much attention has focused on the apparently contradictory instructions given to the two pilots by a Swiss air traffic control operator in Zurich.

Skyguide – which is 99 per cent owned by the Swiss government - came under fire at the time for only having one person on duty on the night of the collision.

Official investigations into the cause of the crash have not yet been completed.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Countdown to tragedy:

23:30 Russian Tupolev jet flies over southern Germany while a Boeing 757 of DHL approaches from the south.

23.21: Boeing contacts the Swiss air traffic control in Zurich.

23:30 Tupolev crew contacts Swiss air traffic control.

23.34:42 The alarms of both planes' automatic collision systems sound.

23:34:49 The air traffic controller tells the Tupolev pilot to descend as he is about to collide with the DHL plane.

23:34:56 The warning system of the DHL plane tells the pilot to descend. Both planes descend at the same time. The Tupolev’s warning system tells the pilot to ascend.

23:35:03 The air traffic controller again orders the Tupolev to descend immediately. The command is confirmed by the crew.

23:35:10 DHL’s warning system tells its crew to descend even further.

23:35:19: DHL’s tells the air traffic controller that it is descending.

23:35:24 The warning system of the Tupolev tells the crew to climb.

23:35:32 The airplanes collide at 11,000 metres killing 69 people aboard the Tupolev and two DHL pilots.

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