Bashkirian Sues DHL, Skyguide for Air Crash

ST. PETERSBURG -- German lawyers representing the families of those who died when a Bashkirian Airlines Tu-154 jet collided in midair with a DHL cargo plane said they are seeking $15 million in compensation from Swiss air traffic control body Skyguide and international cargo giant DHL.

Berlin lawyers Heiko van Schyndel and Elmar Giemulla said they have sent claims to Skyguide and DHL for the collision over Germany in July that claimed the lives of 69 people on the Tu-154, most of them the Ufa children, Reuters reported. The two pilots of the DHL Boeing 757 also died.

Van Schyndel said that in addition to damages for the families, the $15 million figure included the value of the Tu-154, the loss of revenue and the cost of training new crew members.

"We believe their pilot did not react when the pilot of the Tu-154 found himself in the so-called general line of communication, when the radio communication with the air controllers could be followed by all pilots who happen to be in the same area," Giemulla earlier told Radio Liberty. "The pilot of the Tu-154 joined this zone when the DHL pilot was already there.

"When the Tupolev pilot said 'I am on the 3-60 level,' the DHL pilot should have immediately said that he was at exactly the same level. But he did not say so, which contributed to the disaster."

Skyguide lawyer Alexander von Ziegler told Reuters in Zurich that he had been in contact with one of the Berlin lawyers but had not received specific demands.

DHL officials said that their pilots were also victims and that they saw no grounds for a lawsuit.

"Based on everything we know from the preliminary German reports, our pilots were victims just like the 69 on board the Russian plane," DHL corporate affairs director Axel Gietz said at a news conference. "There was nothing wrong with the DHL plane, and both aircraft were equipped with a special on-board collision avoidance system.

"The computer systems agreed on the two planes' courses, and as our pilots are trained to fulfill the computer instructions, they descended. The Russian pilots did the same thing, as they followed Swiss air-traffic control advice."

Gietz said DHL has not been contacted by anyone representing the Russian families. "It is sad that in such a tragic situation, at a certain point all people think of is money," he said.

Alexander Danilov, country manager for DHL Russia, said DHL's business in Bashkortostan and other Russian regions had not been affected by the crash.