- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 2, 2002

STUTTGART, Germany (Agence France-Presse) At least 95 persons were killed when a Russian Tupolev passenger aircraft and a Boeing cargo jet collided in midair in the skies over southern Germany, police said early today.
The two planes, a Tupolev Tu-154, operated by Bashkirian Airlines on the way to Barcelona from Moscow with 93 persons aboard, and a DHL Boeing 757 cargo aircraft with two crew, collided at an altitude of around 30,000 feet over Lake Constance late yesterday.
Witnesses reported hearing an explosion and seeing flaming pieces of wreckage crashing toward the ground.
"The sky became bright all of a sudden. It looked as if the sky was on fire," said Klaus Barinka, 42, a ferryboat captain working at Lake Constance.
Unconfirmed reports said the cargo plane crashed into the lake and that an engine from one of the aircraft landed in a garden.
Hundreds of rescue service workers and firefighters were on the scene, and police said they were combing the area north of the town of Ueberlingen with helicopters. Hospitals in the region were on standby.
Wreckage from the crash fell over an area of several miles. Police said several houses, a farm and a school were set on fire by flaming wreckage but that the blaze at the farm had been brought under control.
Eyewitness Alfred Knoedler told German television that police radio had reported that bodies were scattered everywhere.
Officials at an emergency center at the scene said at least 11 bodies had been found and that a flight data recorder from one of the planes had been recovered.
The Boeing cargo plane, operated by Bahrain Aviation and flying from Bergamo in northern Italy to Brussels, and the passenger aircraft collided shortly after 11:30 p.m., police said.
The passenger plane had made a stopover in the southern city of Munich.
In a statement to the press, DHL said it was far too early to speculate on the cause of the accident but that a full investigation was under way.
DHL said its thoughts were with families and friends of those who had either lost their lives or were seriously injured in such tragic circumstances.
The Bashkirian Airlines fleet is made up largely of Tu-154 aircraft and is the flag carrier for the Republic of Bashkortostan, part of the Russian Federation.
Collisions in the air between large aircraft are rare, especially at the high cruising altitudes of yesterday's crash.
Most aircraft carry transponders, devices that relay a plane's identification, altitude and speed to ground controllers. Controllers use this information to track aircraft and keep them a safe distance from one another. In addition, equipment on many aircraft can read the transponder signals of nearby planes, painting an electronic map to show pilots the aircraft around them.
Many planes also carry collision-avoidance equipment that automatically can pull the plane away from an impending collision or sound an alarm and tell the pilot which way to turn to avoid a crash.
Transponders must be calibrated and checked regularly to make sure they are functioning properly.


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