Judge: Germany may be liable for plane crash

11th May 2006, Comments 0 comments

11 May 2006, CONSTANCE, Germany - Germany may have to pay damages for a mid-air collision caused by an inattentive Swiss air traffic controller nearly four years ago, a German judge said at a first hearing Thursday.

11 May 2006

CONSTANCE, Germany  - Germany may have to pay damages for a mid-air collision caused by an inattentive Swiss air traffic controller nearly four years ago, a German judge said at a first hearing Thursday.

Opening a new legal front in the complex case, Bashkirian Airlines, owner of one of the planes, has sued the German government for 2.6 million euros, the value of its Tupolev 154 airliner, which was carrying 57 passengers and 12 crew.

Nobody survived the July 1, 2002 collision in German airspace with a Boeing 757 DHL cargo plane, which had a crew of two.

Presiding judge Wilhelm Mueller said the case was unprecedented because Germany was being sued, although the air traffic controller was in Switzerland and worked for a Swiss company, Skyguide.

The Russian airline maintains that Germany allowed the Swiss to manage the airspace close to the Swiss border, but did not formally transfer its legal liability to the Swiss. Mueller said he could not rule out that interpretation. The German government denies liability.

Bashkirian Airlines' claim had a significant chance of success, Mueller said. The state court in Constance has yet to issue an estimate of how long it will take to try the civil suit.

A German aviation-accidents inquiry blamed Skyguide for putting the two planes on collision course and giving them the wrong collision-avoidance orders. A relative of a Bashkirian passenger stabbed to death the Skyguide controller in 2004.

German and Swiss prosecutors are also preparing criminal charges against up to seven surviving Skyguide personnel.

DHL also plans to sue Germany for 36 million euros for the loss of its jet, while a Skyguide's Swiss insurer, Winterthur, is suing Bashkirian Airlines. The families of at least 30 dead are also mounting suits. The planes crashed near Ueberlingen, a German town.

DPA

Subject: German News

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