20 dead after vintage military plane crashes in Swiss Alps

20 dead after vintage military plane crashes in Swiss Alps

Eleven men and nine women were killed. Most of the people killed were from Switzerland, along with an Austrian couple and their son.

The plane was operated by JU-Air, an association set-up to keep the planes flying after they were taken out of service by the Swiss Air Force in 1981.

Police had not provided an official toll by late Sunday morning, but said that five helicopters were involved in a search and rescue mission and the airspace over the crash site was to remain closed until late Sunday.

He said that officials expect the investigation of the cause to be "relatively complex".

"Based on the situation at the crash site we can say that the aircraft smashed into ground nearly vertically at relatively high speed", said Daniel Knecht of the Swiss Transportation Safety Investigation Board.

A witness who was on the mountainside at the time of the crash told the 20 Minutes newspaper that "the plane turned 180 degrees to the south and fell to the ground like a stone".

He said officials have essentially ruled out a collision with another aircraft or hitting an obstacle such as a wire.

Speaking Sunday at a news conference in Flims, he said the vintage plane presumably didn't have the crash-resistant cockpit voice and data recorders that more modern aircraft have.

Police in southeastern Graubuenden canton (state) said a several-seater plane crashed Saturday on the Piz Segnas mountain striking the mountain's western flank about 2,540 meters above sea level.

The cause of crash is now being investigated by the Federal Prosecutor's Office, in partnership with local Swiss authorities.

Almost 5,000 Ju-52 planes were manufactured between 1932 and 1952. Knecht said that while heat can affect an aircraft's performance, experienced pilots could deal with that. We can not guarantee that it is suitable for the visually or hearing impaired.

Ju-Air offers "adventure flights" for people wanting to experience Switzerland's landscape from vintage planes.

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