Four employees of Swiss air traffic control service Skyguide have been found guilty of manslaughter following the fatal July 2002 mid-air collision over Lake Constance.
Last August Switzerland’s public prosecutor filed manslaughter charges against eight Skyguide employees, following the collision of a Bashkirian Airlines Tupolev Tu-154 and a DHL Boeing 757-200 freighter. The accident claimed 71 lives.
Bulach District Court today judged four of the individuals guilty and acquitted the remainder, according to a source who was present at the ruling. Neither the court nor public prosecutor Bernhard Hecht was immediately available for comment.
The source says three Skyguide managers were handed 12-month suspended terms, while a project manager was given a suspended fine. Those found not guilty included a member of project staff, a technical systems manager, a member of air traffic control staff and an air traffic control supervisor.
Although the criminal proceedings were at an individual level and did not involve the company, Skyguide interim company CEO Francis Schubert says: “It is extremely difficult to rule in legal terms on such a complex accident and assign responsibility.
“We, for our part, are convinced that this tragedy is attributable primarily to systemic causes in the interplay between people, technology and procedures. Skyguide has learnt the lessons from this tragic event, and has done everything to ensure that an accident of this kind cannot happen again.”
Schubert says talks will now begin to find the best solutions for the professional futures of the employees involved: “There are a number of issues that we need to consider here, but I would like to emphasise that we continue to have total confidence in the skills and abilities of our personnel.”
On the day of the accident, both aircraft were being handled by a single controller – later murdered by one of the victims’ relatives – and a German investigation attributed the collision to overloading of the controller and the absence of safety and back-up systems.
The individuals have the right to appeal the court decision
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