by Li Jizhi, Elina Xu
HELSINKI, April 21 (Xinhua) -- A small plane specially designed for parachuting has crashed in Finland, and eight parachutists were killed in what was considered the deadliest air crash in this Nordic country in the last 30 years.
The accident took place around 3:40 p.m. (GMT 1240) on Sunday, when eyewitnesses saw the plane fall down from the sky and set a fire in the woods near Jamijarvi airport, a popular gliding center in southwest Finland.
Volunteers arrived soon from nearby villages and put out the fire with the cooperation of firebrigades. Military soldiers condoned off the area and policemen and independent investigators were called in despite of the Easter Vacation.
"We know that three people bailed out of the aircraft and survived but unfortunately eight parachuters died and they were found from this crash site," said Ismo Aaltonen, head of the aviation investigation team from the Safety Investigation Authority Finland.
None of the survivals was badly injured and they were treated in hospital in Tampere, a major city some 80km to the east.
"I haven't seen such a serious accident since 1970s," said Petri Kangas, the chief inspector of the Finnish police southwest department.
Hours after the accident, grieving relatives of the dead were sobbing at the airport, refusing to make any comment to reporters, before they were given a chance to visit the site of accident the next morning.
At the site of the wreckage, the propeller and one of the wings could be recognized from the shape and color. A white parachute was hanging from the tree breaches about 50 meters away from the wreckage. "It seems that one of the parachuters who survived used the parachute and landed quite close to the accident site," said Aaltonen. "Unfortunately, all the killed parachutists had their parachutes on and they were not opened," he added.
Something went wrong in the plane when it was at a height of 4 kilometers, and it caused the plane to break apart and forced the pilot and two passengers to eject.
Aaltonen believed the altitude allows plenty of time to react but something must have gone wrong and it was not known yet. "Of course our main interest is the moment that something went wrong. So hopefully we can get some information about that this week," he told Xinhua at the scene.
However, it will take the investigators one year to unveil the final result.
"We don't know anything about the causes at the moment. We are collecting information. We have some videos from ground. We have photos and of course it's very important that we have interview of these survivors, because they can probably tell the moment something went wrong."
"We are also starting technical investigation of this aircraft which is badly burned. So, it's a very challenging task."
The crashed Compair 8 plane had been bought as kits from abroad, and was assembled in Finland five years ago. It is the only of this type being used in Finland, although it is popular around the world.
"It's specially designed for taking parachutists and not for any other purpose," said Aaltonen, adding that the model has a very powerful engine and maintains a good performance.
The home-made plane was not overloaded at the time of the accident, as it is supposed to take up to 12 passengers plus the pilot, he said.
"We have to look at the flight history but it has been flying a lot. Normally it goes up every 20 minutes. There are so many parachutists who want to go up and they even don't stop the engine between the flights," mentioned the experienced investigator.
"Parachuting is quite popular in Finland. We have a lot of people who want to jump out of the plane," said Aaltonen.
"There are other types of planes being used by parachutists, which are mostly factory made," he assured.