Finnish skydiver crash probe could take weeks

AP News
Posted: Apr 21, 2014 1:51 PM
Finnish skydiver crash probe could take weeks

HELSINKI (AP) — An investigation into a small plane crash that killed eight skydivers in Finland could take weeks or longer to complete because the charred remains of the aircraft are scattered over a large area of forest, authorities said Monday.

Two jumpers and the pilot aboard the Comp Air 8 kit aircraft managed to parachute to safety in Sunday's crash, the head of the investigation, Ismo Aaltonen, said Monday. The three men were hospitalized with minor injuries, and it wasn't immediately clear when they would be questioned about the crash.

Finnish MTV 3 television news reported that one of the survivors told investigators that something had "gone wrong" during the flight, but no details were given.

The turboprop plane, built from a kit manufactured by Comp Air based in Titusville, Florida, was registered to carry a pilot and 10 passengers. It was licensed in 2009 and was last inspected in 2012 with the next check due in August 2015.

The eight victims, six men and two women, were aged 23 to 43. They were all experienced parachutists, Aaltonen said.

The small plane was on a regular skydiver flight in southwest Finland, some 70 kilometers (45 miles) east of the coastal town of Pori, when it suddenly lost height and plunged to the ground from an approximate height of 4,000 meters (13,000 feet).

"The plane was badly burned and poses a huge challenge for us," Aaltonen told the AP. "It'll take weeks to find out what happened — the sequence of events — but much longer to establish the actual cause of the accident. We could be talking a year before we can publish our conclusions."

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Police said the victims were found in the chassis of the plane, but were so badly burned they have to be identified by DNA although officials had information about those on board from a flight register left at the nearby Jamijarvi airfield where the plane took off.

Det. Supt. Pentti Lehtimaki said seven of the victims were from the area and one was from the capital, Helsinki.

Transport Minister Henna Virkkunen said the crash could result in a review of aviation regulations because "several leisure aviation accidents in recent years had caused fatalities."

Last year, seven people were killed, including three members of a family whose seaplane crashed into a lake after takeoff. In 2012, six people died in accidents involving small aircraft.