Survivor Says She Saw The Jet Coming Slowly
BOLOGNA, Italy (AP) _ In a nearby classroom some students were singing Christmas carols while Federica Tacconi took notes about some homework at the end of a German lesson.
″Looking through the window I suddenly saw it coming. It was coming slowly, silently, as if it was pushed by the wind, its wings tilting. ... I was paralyzed by dread. I heard someone screaming, then a rumble and the wall collapsed,″ she recalled in tears.
Federica, 16, was one of the four Italian students of a class of 16 who survived the crash of a flaming military jet into a classroom in a suburban high school Thursday.
Pulled free from the wreckage of a wing, she suffered a crushed pelvis and burns but was not in danger of life, doctors at Bologna Maggiore hospital said.
Twelve of her classmates were killed instantly when the pilotless jet plowed into a high school at Casalecchio, three miles outside Bologna. The engine had caught fire, forcing the pilot to bail out.
At the time of the crash, 285 students, 28 teachers and four monitors were at the Gaetano Salvemini vocational high school, authorities said.
The teacher who had just completed a German lesson was hospitalized in nearby Parma with critical burn injuries.
In nearby classrooms panic spread because of the flames and heavy smoke but many did not immediately realize what had happened.
″It’s an earthquake, some of my friends shouted. I thought of a bomb, or the explosion of a heating boiler. I could not believe it had been a jet,″ said Federico Bonanni, 18, who reached the ground safely, from a third floor classroom, on ladders quickly brought by firefighters.
Many survivors panicked and jumped from the windows before arrival of firemen, a few minutes after the accident.
In total those injured were 87, including a firefighter and the jet pilot, who bailed out shortly before the crash.
The prosecutor’s office and a military commission are investigating the crash. The cause of the engine fire was not immediately known.
Gen. Carlo Brandini said the plane was on a mission to test the effectiveness of an anti-aircraft radar system and had taken off from Villafranca military airport near Verona, 55 miles north of Bologna.
He said the MB-326 Aermacchi was flying at about 280 mph when trouble developed in its single engine, which then burst into flames.
Italian Air Force officers said the pilot, 2nd Lt. Bruno Viviani, stuck to the emergency procedure as he tried to land his stricken craft into the fields after unloading most of the fuel.
But the fire forced Viviani to bail out, paramilitary officers reported.
Several eyewitnesses saw the military jet, painted in bright orange, coming down slowly in flames and hit the three-story school after grazing a five- floor condominium complex.
Officers reported that the pilot was not immediately told of the high death toll claimed by the crash.
Federica also did not know that 12 of her classmates were killed.
″I hope Carmen and Laura managed to jump from the window, or flee through the corridor,″ she said.
Carmen Schrinzi and Laura Corazza, both 16, were listed among the known victims.