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Officials Believe Milan Plane Crash An Accident - 2002-04-18


A small plane crashed into Milan's tallest building Thursday killing at least three people and injuring dozens of others. Italian authorities say they believe the crash was an accident, calming initial fears of possible terrorism. The pilot reportedly sent out a distress call just before the crash.

The Piper aircraft crashed into Milan's 30-story Pirelli sky-scraper just before 6 PM local time. Flight controllers say the pilot issued an SOS call shortly before crashing into the upper floors of the building.

Witnesses reported hearing a loud and violent explosion. One woman said it sounded like a bomb. Other witnesses said the pavement shook. Dark smoke immediately billowed from the building, but fire-fighters quickly brought the fire under control.

Many people rushed to the scene, concerned about relatives and friends working inside the building.

Police appealed to all doctors in the city to come to the area, as people with bloodied faces left the building. Ambulances ferried dozens of injured to nearby hospitals.

The scene was reminiscent of the September 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York, when planes crashed into the twin towers. But Italy's interior minister, Claudio Scaljola, said the crash in Milan was "probably an accident."

The plane was en route from Locarno in Switzerland and was scheduled to land at Milan's Linate airport.

The Pirelli building is home to the Lombardy regional government offices. The crash occurred at the end of the work day, when many people had already left the building.

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