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Pilot error not likely, say crash investigators

The helicopters crashed in Beuson, near Sion in canton Valais swissinfo.ch

Investigators into the collision of two helicopters on Tuesday say a pilot error was almost certainly not responsible. Seven Indian tourists and a Swiss pilot died in the crash, the worst helicopter accident in Swiss aviation history.

This content was published on September 27, 2000 - 11:38

An official from the Swiss Office for Aircraft Accident Investigations said preliminary investigations suggested a mistake by one of the pilots could be ruled out.

He said they were now trying to get a clearer picture of what happened, and were concentrating on questioning as many eyewitnesses as possible. He said first results were unlikely to be available in the coming days.

The collision occurred as the two helicopters, a Bell Jet Ranger and an Alouette III, both belonging to the Air Glaciers company, were coming in to land on the football field in Beuvon, a village near the town of Sion in canton Valais.

The aircraft had just completed a five-minute sightseeing tour above the surrounding Alps for the Indian tourists. The crash was witnesses by about 60 other Indians, who had already had their turn.

Eyewitnesses said the helicopters moved very close to each other as they were hovering about 15 metres above the field. They said they fell to the ground after their rotor blades touched.

All six passengers and the Swiss pilot on board the Bell Jet Ranger died. One tourist on board the Alouette was killed in the crash, while the other three passengers and the pilot escaped with injuries.

The injured were immediately transported to the hospital in Sion, and are reported to be out of danger.

In Beuvon, investigators and rescue officials have begun removing the debris from the two aircraft. They said the field would remain sealed off until environmental experts had evaluated the damage caused by the spillage of about 100 litres of kerosene onto the pitch, and decided what measures to take.

The body of the pilot who was killed has been taken to Lausanne for an autopsy. The Indian victims were six men and one woman, but no more is known about their age.

swissinfo with agencies

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