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Managers charged over fatal Crossair crash

The Crossair plane crashed into a forest, killing 24 people

(Reuters)

Six managers from former Swiss regional airline Crossair are to be charged over the death of 24 people in a plane crash in 2001.

The federal justice authorities said on Friday the defendants, who remained unnamed, are accused of negligent homicide and causing grievous bodily harm over the accident, which took place near Zurich.

The alleged offences carry a maximum three-year prison sentence or a fine. It is not immediately clear when the trial will open. The families of the victims were paid a financial compensation.

The plane was flying from the German capital, Berlin, to Zurich on the night of November 24, 2001 in snow and rain. It crashed just short of the Zurich airport runway, killing 24 of the 33 people on board, including the pilot and co-pilot.

Accident investigators concluded that the crash had been caused by the 57-year-old pilot being too tired to concentrate fully or make crucial decisions.

He had been working more than 13 hours when the accident took place and had also exceeded maximum duty several times in the days preceding the crash.

The report also pointed to the lack of safety controls and poor pilot training at Crossair, which later merged with former national carrier Swissair to form the Swiss airline. Swiss was in turn taken over by the German Lufthansa in 2005.

Tight-lipped

The Federal Prosecutor's Office is remaining tight-lipped over who exactly is among the accused.

However, former Crossair founder and chairman, Moritz Suter, as well as chief executive André Dosé, are believed to be among those under investigation by Swiss justice officials.

Suter was quoted as saying that he did not know about any charges.

Dosé, who became the first chief executive of the newly-founded Swiss International Airlines in 2002, resigned from his post two years later.

The Crossair crash dealt another blow to Switzerland's airline industry, which was at the time struggling to regain passenger confidence following the September 11 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. The other accident at Nassenwil, also near Zurich, resulted in the deaths of ten people.

However, the prosecutor's office said on Friday that it had dropped its investigation into this incident due to lapse of time.

swissinfo with agencies

Crossair crash timeline

November 24, 2001: A Crossair Jumbolino crashes on the final approach to Zurich airport killing 24 people. Nine passengers survive.

February 3, 2004: The Swiss Air Accident Investigation Bureau publishes its final report into the crash. Pilot error blamed, but Crossair and the Federal Office for Civil Aviation also come in for criticism.

March 1, 2004: Swiss calls on the Air Accident Investigation Bureau to re-examine the contents of the report.

March 10, 2004: Former Crossair boss André Dosé stands down from his current post as Swiss CEO amid an ongoing enquiry into the crash.

October 26, 2007: Federal Prosecutor's Office announces that 6 managers have been accused of negligent homicide and grievous bodily harm by negligence over the accident.

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