US general admits cable car crash jet was flying too low

Bending to the fury of Italian public opinion, US military officials finally acknowledged yesterday that the aircraft which crashed into a cable-car line in the Dolomites and killed 20 people this week had been flying well below the minimum permitted altitude.

Brigadier-General Guy Vander Linden, the senior Marines commander in Europe, sought to mend the cracks that have opened in relations between Italy and the United States by overruling earlier statements by his colleagues, who had suggested there was nothing untoward about a combat aircraft shooting beneath cable-car lines at the speed of sound.

"The point of impact is well below the approved minimum altitude," he said. He also sought to mend a disagreement with the Italian Defence Ministry about the plane's flight path. He acknowledged that the plane was not on "the centreline of the flight track" when it hit the cable car, merely within a 10-nautical-mile-wide corridor.

The general's finely-tuned words were symptomatic of the tension that has built up between the two countries since Tuesday's accident. Despite pledges of full co-operation, the two countries have fallen out on everything from the causes of the accident to their respective rights to prosecute the Prowler aircraft's pilot and crew.

Yesterday, the Americans were forced to admit they had removed the plane's flight recorder after it returned to base even though it had been impounded by the Italian judiciary. They gave the flight recorder back after an angry denunciation by the public prosecutor.

A special military team flown out from the Marine base in Cherry Point, North Carolina, is working on its own investigation and intends to press any charges that arise in the United States.

Yesterday, leaks from Aviano, the US military base where the aircraft was based, suggested that the pilot, Richard Ashby, 30, was having problems with his altimeter at the time of the impact and did not intentionally dip so low into the valley above Cavalese. The Italian lawyer representing the crew also maintained that the cable car lines were not marked on two of the three maps in the plane.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Solution Architect - Contract

£500 - £600 per day: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Solution Architect is requir...

360 Resourcing Solutions: Export Sales Coordinator

£18k - 20k per year: 360 Resourcing Solutions: ROLE: Export Sales Coordinato...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Telesales Executive - OTE £35,000+

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest developer of mobile...

SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

£22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...

Day In a Page

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue
E L James's book Grey is a reminder of how the phenomenon of the best-seller works

Grey is a reminder of how the phenomenon of the best-seller works

It's hard to understand why so many are buying it – but then best-selling was ever an inexact science, says DJ Taylor
Behind the scenes of the world's most experimental science labs

World's most experimental science labs

The photographer Daniel Stier has spent four years gaining access to some of the world's most curious scientific experiments
It's the stroke of champions - so why is the single-handed backhand on the way out?

Single-handed backhand: on the way out?

If today's young guns wish to elevate themselves to the heights of Sampras, Graf and Federer, it's time to fire up the most thrilling shot in tennis
HMS Saracen: Meeting the last survivor of a submarine found 72 years after it was scuttled

HMS Saracen

Meeting the last survivor of a submarine found 72 years after it was scuttled
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Martine Wright lost both legs in the attack – she explains how her experience since shows 'anything is possible'

7/7 bombings 10 years on

Martine Wright lost both legs in the attack – she explains how her experience since shows 'anything is possible'