Crews recover flight recorders from Crossair crash that killed 24 people


Sunday, November 25th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


ZURICH, Switzerland (AP) _ Workers combing through a muddy wood found the flight recorders of a Swiss airliner that crashed near Zurich, killing 24 people, officials said Sunday.

Nine people managed to walk away from the wreckage after the Crossair Avro RJ-100, a small four-engine jetliner, crashed Saturday night. It was unclear whether the pilots had survived.

``Unfortunately we could find no more survivors,'' said Zurich police chief Peter Gruetter after rescue workers spent the night searching through the wreckage a few miles short of the runway.

The bodies of ten people were recovered. Remains of the other 14 were not found, but Gruetter said the ``search and rescue'' phase was now over _ implying they were dead.

At a morning news conference, authorities said they were still unsure what caused the crash of Flight LX3597 from Berlin _ the second accident to strike Crossair in less than two years.

Weather conditions were poor when the plane went down just after 10 p.m., with rain and some snow in the area. Crossair chief executive officer Andre Dose said there were no indications that terrorism was to blame.

Airport officials said communication between the pilot _ who had more than 10 years of flying experience _ had been normal.

The plane carried five crew, all Swiss, and 28 passengers including Germans, Austrians, Swiss, Canadians, Dutch and Israelis. Gruetter declined to give a detailed passenger list, saying that next of kin had not yet been informed.

The nine survivors walked on their own to rescue workers, said Zurich airport's chief medical officer, Remo Reichlin. Three had serious burns, while the other six had less severe ones. They were taken to hospitals in Zurich and nearby Winterthur.

Marc Hogenkamp _ who works at Zurich's university hospital _ said he was alerted by his parents that his brother was on the flight and discovered he was among the lucky ones.

``He had a light injury but he's very well considering and has already got up,'' Hogenkamp told Swiss state-run television. ``It's unbelievable that he survived.''

The plane crashed near the village of Bassersdorf as it approached runway 28, a landing strip that just begun operating at night a month ago following an agreement by the Swiss transport ministry to limit overflight noise above nearby Germany.

A fire engulfed the middle part of the plane after the crash, but was extinguished within 15 minutes. The cockpit and tail areas were left largely unscathed, enabling recovery workers to retrieve the flight recorders.

Crossair said there had never been any known problems with the 97-passenger RJ-100, which is manufactured by Britain's BAE Aircraft Services Group and is also known as the Jumbolino. The plane that crashed was built in 1996.

The crash was sure to add to the woes of Swissair, Crossair's ailing parent company.

Crossair had been taking over parts of the Swissair operations in a complicated, government-financed bailout that is meant to be completed next spring.

``It's come at a very difficult time,'' Dose said.

Once the proud national carrier, Swissair last month had its planes grounded because the company could no longer pay fuel and landing fees. Although the government and corporate investors have since stepped in, the airline is still struggling to recover customer confidence and to fill empty seats.

It was the second crash in as many years for Crossair. A Saab 340 crashed shortly after takeoff from Zurich on Jan. 10, 2000, killing all 10 people on board. The plane was headed to the German city of Dresden.