An Alitalia DC-9 jetliner approaching Zurich airport crashed into a hillside and burned Wednesday night, killing all 40 passengers and six crew members aboard, police said.
Flight AZ404 of the Italian airline, coming from Milan, crashed about 8:20 p.m. five miles north of Kloten International Airport outside Zurich, near the village of Weiach, airport spokesman Peter Gutknecht said.
Witnesses reported what appeared to be fire and explosions before the plane crashed into a wooded hill, Zurich police told a press conference.
Only a few on board were Italians, an Alitalia spokeswoman said. Italian reports said most of the other passengers were apparently Swiss and Japanese. Alitalia said it did not expect to publish a full passenger list before today.
The Swiss Federal Meteorological Office said that visibility at the time of the crash was good--up to 10 miles, with light rain and light winds. Early reports had cited heavy rain.
Fire raged in the wreckage and woodside for at least 1 1/2 hours, police said.
Hanni Steffen, a nearby resident and a medic, said she rushed to the site but all help appeared too late.
"The plane was burning like a volcano," she said.
Italy's state-run RAI television said first reports appear to discount the possibility of a terrorist act but that the crash did not seem linked to the weather.
The plane broke apart on impact. Smoking wreckage, covered with firefighting foam, was scattered about the muddy hillside. The tail section had broken off. One landing gear and a section of wing were also discernible.
The plane was on time after a 50-minute flight from Milan when it disappeared from radar screens, Gutknecht said.
Swiss aviation authorities said they have begun an investigation, and Italian authorities said they will dispatch a team of investigators.