The dead included 137 Americans - including one of the world's leading Aids specialists, Dr Jonathan Mann - and six Britons. There was, at this stage, no evidence of terrorist action or sabotage causing the crash.
It was shortly before midnight local time when the pilots issued the ultimate distress call, "Pan, pan, pan", as they fought to keep the crippled flight 111 in the air and make it to the airport in Halifax, airline officials said yesterday.
But their time ran out 10 minutes too early as the MD-11 jet - many of its passengers already dressed in life jackets as smoke poured into the cockpit - plunged into the Atlantic off the coast of the eastern Canadian province of Nova Scotia.
While some 40 bodies had been recovered last night, almost all hope of finding survivors of the crash had been abandoned. It was the worst disaster in Switzerland's aviation history and echoes the crash of TWA 800 off Long Island just over two years ago.
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