Final victims of midair plane crash found; some being returned

Monday, July 8, 2002

BERLIN -- Authorities in southern Germany on Sunday found the final two bodies of victims of last week's plane crash that killed 71, including 45 children from the eastern Russian region of Bashkortostan, police said.

A Russian jet was to return to Ufa, capital of Bashkortostan, on Sunday night with 33 of the 37 bodies that have been identified thus far.

Investigators have been focusing on the actions of Swiss air traffic controllers and whether they gave the pilot of a Russian Tu-154 passenger airliner sufficient warning to descend before it crashed with a Boeing 757 cargo jet July 1 at 35,000 feet over the German-Swiss border.

All 69 people aboard the Russian aircraft and both men aboard the cargo jet were killed.

The final two bodies were found Sunday, Friedrichshafen police said.

The Bashkirian Airlines jet and DHL cargo aircraft were in airspace directed by air traffic controllers in Zurich, Switzerland, at the time. Swiss officials have opened a criminal investigation into possible negligent homicide.

Most of the wreckage has now been recovered from the area near Lake Constance where it fell and brought to the Friedrichshafen airport where it is being laid-out in a hangar for examination by experts.

The flight data and cockpit voice recorders of both planes have been found. Those from the Boeing contain information on the plane's last 250 miles in the air, while the Russian plane's are somewhat shorter, said Joerg Schoeneberg, lead investigator for the German aviation agency.

Going through all the information on the so-called black boxes could take weeks, he said.

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