• Switzerland's news in English

Divers find Swiss plane 33 years after crash

Meritxell Mir · 25 Oct 2011, 11:47

Published: 25 Oct 2011 13:50 GMT+02:00
Updated: 25 Oct 2011 11:47 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Two Portuguese divers have found the wreckage of an outbound charter flight from Geneva that sank near Porto Novo on the Portuguese island of Madeira.

"The plane is virtually intact, even the wings are there, only the cockpit is missing” diver Jose Marques told Portuguese newspaper Diario de Noticias. “What we found is practically a grave,” he added.

Two kilometres off the shore and at 105 metres below the surface, divers found all the seats, life jackets, gas masks and even passengers' clothing on seats. There were no human remains of the people who died in the accident: 36 lost their lives, but only 19 corpses were recovered at the time.

The plane, belonging to Swiss airline SATA, left on December 18th 1977 from Zurich with 52 passengers on board ready to spend their Christmas holidays in Madeira. After a stopover in Geneva, the flight continued its way to the mountainous Portuguese island.

Shortly before landing, the crew made a fatal coordination error, flying too low. When approaching the island, they lost sight of the runaway but an optical illusion made them land in the Atlantic Ocean, four kilometres away from the Funchal airport. The investigation concluded that neither of the two pilots was authorised for night landing.

The jet remained on the surface of the water for two minutes before plunging rapidly to the bottom of the sea, survivors told local media at the time. Most of the passengers were unable to free themselves from their seat belts, and went down with the plane. Others died of poisoning from the jet's fuel.

Meritxell Mir (news@thelocal.ch)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Illegal immigrant dies after setting himself on fire
The victim was treated at University Hospital Zurich. Photo: University Hospital Zurich

The 45-year-old Tunisian was threatened with deportation.

Swiss government rejects call for second immigration vote
Photo: Justus Blumer/Christophe G

The Swiss government has rejected a popular initiative calling for a revote on plans to limit immigration.

Bern: companies should report salary inequality by law
File photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

The Swiss government wants to force small companies to examine their rates of pay every four years.

Husband in custody after Orbe body identified
File photo: Bas Leenders

The deceased is a 55-year-old woman who lived in the house with her husband.

Presented by MoneyPark
How to get a mortgage in Switzerland
Houses in Zürich. Photo: Pixabay.

Ready to buy? Here’s what you need to know as an expat about Swiss regulations, how to finance your purchase, and why you should use a broker.

Autumn in Switzerland: ten stunning Instagram photos
Photo: Swiss Tourism/Jan Geerk

Switzerland is beautiful in all seasons, but as these photos show, autumn is a special time in the alpine country.

Report: Swiss progress slows on gender equality
File photo: David Soulivet

Globally, it will take 170 years to achieve gender equality, according to the World Economic Forum.

Brothers go to court to stop suicide of sibling
File photo: Lisa Edmonds

Two men have filed a legal bid to prevent the Swiss assisted suicide association Exit from helping their older brother to kill himself.

Wawrinka snubs past form to reach Basel second round
Wawrinka beat local wildcard Marco Chiudinelli. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

US Open champion Stan Wawrinka has reached the second round in Basel after going out in the first round for the past four years.

Villagers asked to help fund bridge renovations
The bridge links the two villages of Veltheim (pictured) and Holderbank. Photo: Lutz Fischer-Lamprecht

The crowdfunding campaign by the two communes is the first of its kind in Switzerland.

Photo: Unterirdisch Ueberleben
Inside Switzerland’s largest nuclear bunker – 40 years on
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Photo: The Local
Ticino firefighters rescue cow from swimming pool
Photo: Antoni Da Campo
Vegan wins battle to be accepted by Swiss army
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Ten Swiss ski resorts named most expensive in Europe
Photo: Randy Kashka
Swiss women will ‘work for free’ for the rest of year
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Montreux throws hat in Olympic rings
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Seven things you’ll miss about Switzerland if you leave
Photo: Richard Juilliard/AFP
Man makes Geneva airport bomb threat ‘for a joke’
Photo: AFP
Solar Impulse team reveals plans for unmanned plane
File photo: Martin Abegglen
Swiss to vote on passport rules for 3rd gen foreigners
Photo: AFP
Swiss wingsuit hotspot Lauterbrunnen won’t impose ban
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Six reasons Switzerland isn’t as boring as you might think
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Report: Switzerland one of world’s best places for girls
Photo: The Local
Thief returns Swiss cow bells worth thousands
File photo: Wikimedia Commons
One in three rapists isn’t locked up: statistics
Photo: activistin.ch
Tampon-tax protest turns Zurich fountains red
Photo: AFP
Geneva police to lift ban on bearded officers
Photo: Marcel Gillieron/AFP
Suicide chef’s restaurant keeps Michelin stars
Photo: Lara de Salis
11 things the Swiss get tired of hearing abroad
Photo:  Ivo Scholz/Swiss-image.ch
Survey: expats in Switzerland have money but few friends
Photo: AFP
Swiss press criticize Bern’s 'capitulation' on immigration
Photo: Jura Trois Lacs tourism
German ex-policeman is Swiss city’s new hermit
Photo: Dmitry A. Mottl
Ticino votes to favour local workers over foreigners
jobs available