Twenty killed as wartime plane crashes in Alps

Twenty killed as wartime plane crashes in Alps

Swiss police say all 20 people aboard an old-time propeller plane were killed when the aircraft crashed into a mountainside in southeast Switzerland.

Police said Sunday they have now determined that all 20 people on board the plane, including its three crew members, died. Most were from Switzerland but also a couple and their son from Austria.

The Ju-52 aircraft, made by Germany's Junkers, were made between 1932 and 1952.

The wreckage of the plane was in a basin at 2,450 meters (8,000 feet) above sea level surrounded on three sides by peaks, a Reuters witness said.

On July 27, four people were killed in a light plane crash at the top of a glacier in the southern Valais canton.

"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.

Police said they are not aware of any distress call from the aircraft before it crashed.

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The cause of crash is now being investigated by the Federal Prosecutor's Office, in partnership with local Swiss authorities. They also expect the investigation into the cause of the crash to be "relatively complex".

"What we can rule out at this point is that there had been a collision before the crash, neither with another aircraft nor with some other obstacle such as a cable".

Ju-Air started operating flights with the old-timers in 1983, and the plane that crashed - with the registration HB-HOT - had been in service with the company since 1985.

Almost 5,000 Ju-52 planes, a product of Germany's Junkers, were manufactured between 1932 and 1952.

Chief executive and co-founder Kurt Waldmeier said the planes "are flown exclusively by very experienced professional pilots, and strictly checked and maintained by our own technicians". JU-AIR also suspended flights with the remaining two Ju-52s until further notice.

JU-Air said on its website that it was "deeply saddened" and its "thoughts were with the passengers, the crew and families and friends of the victims".

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