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Plane crash air controller murdered

Published on 25/02/2004

25 February 2004

ZURICH/MOSCOW – A Skyguide air traffic controller on duty during the crash of two planes above Lake Constance in 2002 was killed in his home near Zurich, Swiss police said Wednesday.

The 36-year-old Dane was found stabbed to death in his house in Kloten on Tuesday night, police said.

Police officials said they were looking for an unidentified man, who spoke broken German and was about 50 years old, in connection with the killing.

The controller had been on duty when a Bashkiria Airlines Tu-154 from Russia collided with a Boeing cargo plane above the lake on 1 July 2002, killing 71 people, most of them Russian children on a holiday trip.

Police said it was a yet unclear whether the killing was related to the crash.

However, the investigation would also explore this possibility, a police official said on Swiss radio.

A representatives of Russian families affected by the crash expressed condolences Wednesday.

“We share the grief of the man’s wife and children,” spokeswoman Yulia Fedotova told Deutsche Presse-Agentur, dpa.

The relatives of the victims had also hoped a testimony by the controller in court would shed more light on the aviation tragedy, she said.

Skyguide was criticized after the air crash when it emerged that only one controller had been on duty and a vital piece of safety equipment in Swiss traffic control was switched off at the time of the collision, resulting in the control centre’s late warning to the pilots.

Skyguide said Wednesday it was shocked by the killing and announced it would reduce its flights over Zurich by 40 percent in a temporary measure to increase the security of its staff and reduce shock amongst employees.

The cutback would effect arrivals and departures from Zurich and also lead to possible delays, the company warned.

Subject: German news