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Thursday, 4 July, 2002, 14:56 GMT 15:56 UK
Relatives visit jet crash site
Families of the victims of a plane crash visit the wreck of the Tupolev 154
Parents were warned not to expect to find bodies
Relatives of the Russians killed in Monday night's mid-air collision have been visiting the crash site in southern Germany and are preparing to help with the identification of the victims.

I only want to bring something back home, to have something to bury my child with

Alfiya Khanannova, mother of victim
More than 130 relatives were flown into the town of Friedrichshafen, near the crash site, accompanied by two doctors and four psychologists.

Seventy-one people, many of them children from the Russian republic of Bashkortostan, were killed when a Tupolev passenger jet operated by Bashkirian Airlines collided with a Boeing cargo plane.

Crash investigators asked the parents of the 52 children and teenagers killed to bring their children's dental records and other items - such as unwashed clothes and hairbrushes - to aid DNA identification.

Launch new window : Mid-air collision
How the crash happened

The cause of the crash remains unclear, but questions are being asked about Swiss air traffic control procedures which may have contributed to the disaster.

It has emerged that a report released a few days before the collision by the Swiss aviation safety body had also raised questions about the quality of the controllers' radar system.

Shocked and tired

Rescue crews have so far recovered 67 bodies from the crash site and carried out post-mortem examinations on 24, police said. Most were found in the remains of the fuselage of the Russian plane.

Crash wreckage
Bodies and debris were scattered over several square miles
However, only the two pilots of the Boeing 757 cargo plane flying for DHL International have so far been identified.

Parents have been warned not to expect to find their children's bodies, due to the violence of the collision.

The BBC's Emma Jane Kirby says the relatives looked shocked and tired as they arrived in Friedrichshafen.

They flew from Russia on a Bashkirian Airlines Tupolev similar to the one in which their children died.

They came in large family groups. Women dressed in black clutched wreaths and flowers to be laid at the crash scene.

  • Tupolev 154 flying from Moscow to Barcelona
  • Boeing 757 flying from Bergamo to Brussels
  • Collision happened on 1 July at 2130 GMT. All on board both planes lost

  • They were taken first to a memorial service in a local church, before heading to the scene of the crash.

    Air traffic controllers in Switzerland have admitted that an automatic warning system was switched off and only one staff member was on duty when the collision occurred.

    Skyguide - the Swiss air traffic control company responsible for planes at the time of the crash - said the system, which should have warned ground control that the two planes were on a collision course, was out of action for routine maintenance.

    A spokesman for Skyguide told German television that it remained a "hypothetical question" whether the warning system or the presence of the second controller - who had gone on a break - could have prevented the mid-air crash.

    Prosecutors in Germany and Switzerland have begun legal proceedings to determine whether negligence was responsible for the crash. They are both expected to question Skyguide.

    Integration call

    Skyguide has also dismissed questions about the quality of their radar raised by the Swiss aviation safety body, the BFU.

    I hope the airlines learn from it and reduce the traffic in the air

    Harald, Germany

    The 26 June report, commissioned after three near-misses in Swiss air space, said the precision of pictures on the centre's radar system did not conform to EU standards.

    In one incident the BFU investigated, radars in the cities of Zurich and Geneva showed planes in different positions.

    The disaster has prompted German Transport Minister Kurt Bodewig to renew calls for an integrated European Union air traffic control system.

    The European Commission has already announced plans for an integrated system, but these are opposed by trade unions who fear job losses and say safety standards could be compromised.

    The BBC's James Coomarasamy
    "Swiss air traffic control has come under scrutiny"
    The BBC's Emma Jane Kirby
    "Relatives have come here to grieve, not to ask questions"

    Key stories:

    At the scene:


    See also:

    03 Jul 02 | Europe
    26 May 02 | World
    04 Jul 02 | Media reports
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