BRATISLAVA (Slovakia) • Seven people died when two turbo-prop planes carrying dozens of civilian parachutists collided in mid-air in western Slovakia yesterday.
The crash involved two L-410 Turbolet sport airplanes with 38 people on board, most of them parachutists preparing for an air show, said Ms Zuzana Farkasova from the interior ministry's firefighters division.
The seven dead were four pilots and three parachutists, according to local media.
Interior Minister Robert Kalinak told reporters: "Soon after take-off, after the first manoeuvre, the two planes collided due to causes that are not yet known.
"All the people tried to save themselves, having parachutes on, and... 31 managed to jump out without major injuries."
Five parachutists sustained minor injuries after the planes crashed in the area around Cerveny Kamen, a village near the Czech border, according to health ministry spokesman Peter Bubla.
Rescuers said three helicopters were used to reach the crash site, in the White Carpathians mountain range that forms the border with the Czech Republic.
The accident took place when one of the planes suddenly descended onto the other, according to local media, with a propeller ripped off as they collided.
Mr Juraj Gyenes of Slovakia's Air and Naval Investigation Service told TA3 news channel that the accident might have been caused by possible overloading of one of the Czech-made planes.
Mr Kalinak and Health Minister Viliam Cislak were heading to the crash site. The air show scheduled this weekend in nearby Slavnica has been cancelled, reports said.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS