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More Than 70 Die in Air Crash Over Germany - 2002-07-02


More than 70 people, including more than 50 Russian schoolchildren, died when their plane collided with a cargo jet in mid-air over southern Germany. The Russian Tupolev was carrying 57 passengers and 12 crew members.

It was a charter flight filled with more than 50 Russian schoolchildren on their way to summer holidays in Spain. The TU-154 belonged to the Russian Bashkirian airlines and left Moscow's Domodedovo airport Monday evening bound for Barcelona.

A few hours later, it collided with a Boeing 757 cargo plane operated by the DHL express delivery company over Lake Constance on the Swiss-German border. The cargo flight with a pilot and co-pilot on board was en route to Brussels. According to initial reports from Swiss air traffic control authorities, the Russian pilot reacted too late to repeated requests to change altitude to avoid a collision.

Bashkirian Airlines General Director Nikolai Odegov rejects accusations that the Russian pilots may have been at fault.

Mr. Odegov says the plane was fully equipped for flights to Europe. He says the pilot was very experienced, with lots of flying hours on international routes.

The children and teenagers aboard the Russian plane were from the Bashkortostan region, about 1,500 kilometers east of Moscow. They had arrived in Moscow Saturday evening and missed their scheduled flight to Spain. So, a special charter flight was arranged. That was the flight involved in the collision.

Russia's Deputy Transportation Minister Alexander Neradko says a team of Russian experts will take part in the investigation into the accident.

Mr. Neradko says an investigative commission is being put together and Russian representatives will take part in the inquiry. He says the Russian team is expected to leave for Germany later in the day.

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