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Swiss Blamed For 2002 Bashkir Airlines Crash

19 May 2004 -- A report released today by Germany's federal air accidents board concluded that a Swiss-based air traffic controller was to blame for a mid-air collision of two planes in 2002 that killed 71 people, mostly schoolchildren from the Russian Republic of Bashkortostan.

The report found that the Swiss air-controller who was responsible for tracking a DHL cargo plane and a Russian charter plane made mistakes and was overworked.

Joerg Schoeneberg, the chief investigator in the inquiry, described the mistakes that led to the collision.

"The first immediate cause [of the collision] was that the [Swiss] air-traffic controllers did not realize soon enough the imminence [of the crash] and directions to the TU-154 to descend were given at a time when safe vertical and horizontal distances to the Boeing could no longer be guaranteed."

The Swiss controller was later stabbed to death in a suspected revenge killing.

Swiss President Joseph Deiss sent a letter of apology to Russian President Vladimir Putin today.