Date: January 13th, 2000
Type: SD360-300
Registration: HB-AAM
Operator: Avisto (Swiss-registered chartered plane)
Where: In sea off Libya
Report No.-
Report Date: -
Pages: -

This is not an accident investigation report.

Thirteen Britons were aboard a Swiss-registered chartered plane which crashed in the sea off Libya killing at least 15 people, the plane's operator Avisto said.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "We understand there are British people on board, but we don't know who they are or how many are involved. We are urgently checking, we have been in touch with the Swiss authorities.

The plane was carrying 38 passengers and three crew when it came down in the sea on its approach to Marsa el Brega, a spokesman for Irish planemaker Shorts in Belfast told Reuters.

The aircraft had been delivered to Avisto in 1990 and was used for transporting oilfield workers, he said. The spokesman said the SD360 had an excellent safety record -- there had been only one fatal accident since it went into service in 1982. Shorts had produced 164 of the aircraft, he added.

A spokesman for Avisto told Swiss Radio that 16 of those on board were Libyans, 13 were British, two were Canadian, three were from India, three from Croatia, three from the Philippines and one from Pakistan. Officials said 15 people were feared dead, but could not confirm the nationalities of the fatalities.

The plane was operated by Zurich-based Avisto and was made by Irish planemaker Shorts. Shorts Brothers, of Belfast, is part of Canada's Bombardier Inc .

Avisto said the Shorts SD360-300 made an emergency landing in the sea during its approach to Masra el Brega, Libya's main centre for producing petrochemicals.

Avisto was operating the plane for Sirte Oil Co in Libya to transport workers between its headquarters and various oil fields, Avisto said in a statement.

"There were 38 passengers of various nationalities as well as two pilots and one flight attendant on board," it said.

"The accident happened around 1135 GMT during a flight from Tripoli to Marsa el Brega. According to our information, the plane made an emergency landing in the water for unknown reasons shortly before landing in Marsa el Brega," it said.

It said it had no more details or any word on casualties. Marsa el Brega is operated by the National Petrochemicals Company (NAPECTCO).

Avisto operates planes to shuttle oil workers between the various oilfields, Tripoli and the Sirte headquarters at the Marsa el Brega petrochemical complex.

A spokeswoman for the Berne Transport Ministry said a Swiss accident investigator would travel to Tripoli on Friday from Ottawa, where he was helping probe the crash of a Swissair plane near Halifax in September 1998 that killed all 229 on board.

The plane, with registration number HB-AAM, was the second Swiss aircraft to crash this week. A Crossair Saab 340 commuter place went down just after takeoff from Zurich on Monday (10th January 2000), killing all 10 passengers and crew.