'Caesium plane' found in Swiss lake

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The Independent Online
RORSCHACH (Reuter) - Swiss police said yesterday they had found the wreck of a plane, suspected of having carried radioactive material, at the bottom of a lake.

German experts working with underwater cameras had identified the wreckage of the twin-engined Cessna on the bed of Lake Constance. 'The probability that there is radioactive material on board is pretty small,' said Peter Gruetter, police chief of the northern Swiss canton of St Gallen.

The plane disappeared from radar screens nine days ago while approaching the Swiss airfield of Altenrhein, close to the lake.

Police have said they feared the aircraft might be carrying Caesium 137, a radioactive substance used for medical and industrial purposes. Two Germans who had been on board the aircraft at one stage were known by Interpol to be involved in trading radioactive materials, police said.

Mr Gruetter said that although he doubted the plane was carrying radioactive material, every precaution would be taken when it was lifted from the lake tomorrow.

It was unclear whether a radioactive cargo which the businessmen were carrying from the Latvian capital, Riga, had been unloaded in Prague before they flew on to Switzerland. Two women had joined the plane in the Czech capital.

Police said the lake had been tested frequently since the plane went missing. No traces of radioactivity had been found. 'It is therefore highly unlikely that there is any danger of a leakage of radioactivity,' a spokesman said.

The wreckage was found in Swiss waters at the southern end of the lake, about 160m (500ft) deep. Lake Constance provides much of the tap water for hundreds of thousands of people.