Investigation continues into deadly plane crash in Italy

Small plane piloted by 68-year-old Romanian real estate mogul crashed into under-construction building.

Investigation continues into deadly plane crash in Italy

The day after the crash of a private plane near Milan that killed all eight passengers aboard, new details have emerged and an investigation has been opened. 

The single-engine Pilatus PC-12 piloted by 68-year-old Romanian billionaire Dan Petrescu, who was a property developer, crashed into an under-construction building in the parking area of a metro station in the San Donato Milanese suburb of Milan just three minutes after takeoff.

Aboard the plane along with Petrescu were his wife Regina Dorotea Petrescu Balzat, 65, his son Dan Stefan Petrescu, 30, and a friend of his, 36- year-old Canadian national Julien Brossard. There were also four members of another family: Italian national Filippo Nascimbene, 33, his French wife Claire Stephanie Caroline Alexandrescou, 34, their one-year old son Raphael and Miruna Anca Wanda Lozinschi, 65, the mother of Claire Stephanie and grandmother of Raphael.

The group was due to land at Olbia airport on the Italian island of Sardinia to spend a few days at Dan Petrescu’s villa, where his elderly mother was waiting for them.

The scene was devastating, as confirmed by rescuers who intervened immediately after the accident.

“There were pieces of the plane and debris of the building scattered in a radius of hundreds of meters along with parts of the bodies burning,” a rescuer told Anadolu Agency, one of dozens who spent 18 consecutive hours in an never-ending rescue shift.

He added that the street where the plane crashed – 8 October 2001 -- is named after the worst Italian aviation tragedy when 118 passengers were killed at Linate airport in an accident between two aircraft.

The flight track of only three minutes shows that something happened suddenly to the plane and the trajectory changed rapidly.

According to a preliminary reconstruction of the event given by the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, the control tower at Linate airport got in contact with Petrescu just before the crash, asking: “You diverted the plane to avoid turbulence?" To which Petrescu merely replied "no."

Immediately afterwards, the plane disappeared from the radar and crashed.

It eventually emerged that the pilot also communicated a small change of course to the control tower, and immediately afterwards, he asked for a "carrier," the re-entry procedure. The request was granted, given that air traffic was blocked at Linate airport for 10 minutes to avoid collision risks.

What is already known is that the plane, which was supposed to reach a cruising altitude of 5,000 feet, continued to veer abnormally to the right when it reached about 3,500-4,000 feet. Seconds before the crash, it was traveling at 293 kilometers (182 miles) per hour at 1,631 meters above sea level. Two seconds later, the altitude dropped to 1,615 and the speed jumped to almost 303 kilometers (188 miles) per hour. Two more seconds and he was down to 52 meters.

In any event, no standard departure procedure requires aircraft to follow the trajectory carried out yesterday by the private plane, and by the time of the accident, the weather was cloudy and some rain had begun to fall, although it was not so heavy as to prevent smooth navigation.

Witnesses of the accident reported a strong noise in the sky, adding the plane was already on fire before hitting the building. Engine trouble may have caused a fire in one of the engines.

The plane's data recorder, which has already been retrieved from the site of the tragedy, may be able to answer all of the questions and clarify what went wrong. The so-called "black box" flight recorder has been seized by Paolo Filippini, Mauro Clerici and Tiziana Siciliano, the public prosecutors who are managing the investigation.

Hüseyin Demir