Crossair plane crash latest Swiss disaster

Monday, November 26, 2001

ZURICH, Switzerland -- Switzerland mourned again Sunday after a fiery plane crash near Zurich's airport killed 24 people, most of them foreigners -- the latest in a string of deadly incidents that has shaken the Alpine nation.

With the fuselage in flames, seven passengers and two crew members escaped from the tail section of the Crossair Jumbolino Avro RJ-100 jet after it crashed in the woods just short of the runway Saturday night on a flight from Berlin. Two of the survivors were in critical condition.

The crash came after two months of misfortune in Switzerland, where a gunman killed 15 people in a rampage at a regional parliament in Zug on Sept. 28 and a traffic pileup deep in a mountain tunnel left 11 dead on Oct. 24.

Swiss were already stunned by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

"We are absolutely speechless after being dragged from one catastrophe to the next," said President Moritz Leuenberger. "Our grief is mixed with bitterness because it never seems to end."

Switzerland has also watched its main airline, Swissair, descend into demoralizing financial trouble that briefly grounded most of planes in early October.

Zurich police said the jet's passengers and crew included 10 Swiss, 13 Germans -- one with dual U.S.-German citizenship -- three Israelis, two people from the Netherlands and one each from Austria, Canada, Ghana, Spain and Sweden.

Melanie Thornton, a singer with American and German citizenship, was aboard, and was reported to be among the dead.

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