Small plane crashes in Switzerland, several people killed

20 kills in Swiss Alps airplane crash

The Junker Ju-52 aircraft smashed into a mountainside near the resort of Flims in the east of the country on Saturday.

"Based on the situation at the crash site we can say that the aircraft smashed into the ground nearly vertically at relatively high speed", said Daniel Knecht of the Swiss Transportation Safety Investigation Board.

Police said Sunday they have now determined that all 20 people on board the plane, including its three crew members, died.

Swiss police said five copters were involved in the search and rescue operation and the airspace over the crash site was to remain closed until late Sunday.

Officials said 11 men and nine women were killed, most from Switzerland but also a couple and their son from Austria.

Almost 5,000 Ju-52 planes were manufactured between 1932 and 1952.

The area, which includes a glacier, is popular with hikers.

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The company JU-AIR has three of the vintage Juncker propeller aircraft, which are known affectionately in German as "Auntie Ju" planes.

Authorities are investigating what caused the deadly crash.

An eyewitness told Swiss newspaper 20 Minutes that the "plane turned 180 degrees to the south and fell to the ground like a stone". Knecht said that while heat can affect an aircraft's performance, experienced pilots could deal with that.

The aircraft belongs to JU-Air, a company with links to the Swiss air force, the ATS news agency reported.

The plane that crashed had logged 10,187 hours of flying time, he said, adding that it underwent maintenance after every 35 hours of flight - most recently at the end of July. It has suspended all flights until further notice.

Based out of Duebendorf in canton Zurich, JU-AIR offers sightseeing and adventure flights around the Alps.

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