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Thursday, 18 April, 2002, 20:38 GMT 21:38 UK
Milan's moment of terror
Pirelli building with hole in side
The impact tore a hole in the side of the building
Passers-by feared they were witnessing "another 11 September" when a small aircraft crashed into Milan's prestigious Pirelli skyscraper.

At least three people were killed and many more injured when the Piper private aircraft slammed into the 30-storey building, punching a hole in the 27th floor.

At first, we thought it was a bomb, then, when we heard a plane had hit the building, we thought it was another 11 September

Gordon Kite

"I was in the middle of a class in the building next door when there was a huge explosion and the building shook like in an earthquake," English teacher Gordon Kite told BBC News Online.

"Everyone ran out and went down the fire escapes."

Outside, the air was filled with papers falling to the ground, he said. Smoke poured through a hole in the building's side.

"At first, we though it was a bomb," he said. "Then, when we heard a plane had hit the building, we thought it was another 11 September."

'Terrible explosion'

Raffaele Taccogna was tending bar at the Atlantic Hotel, 200 metres away, when he heard the crash and ran outside. He too feared he was witnessing a repeat of the terror attacks on the United States.

"At the beginning, I heard something which seemed like a helicopter," he said.

People looking at Perelli building
Witnesses feared a terrorist attack

"And then I heard something like the engine of the plane which was dying out, and then I heard a terrible explosion.

"At the beginning I certainly thought of the September attacks in the United States. It really looked like the same thing."

But a witness to the crash said the plane was already on fire before the moment of impact.

"[The aircraft] was in flames before it hit the building," said sports journalist Fabio Sunik.

"It did not try to deviate its course, but just when straight in."

Mr Sunik was standing in front of the nearby Milan central train station at the time of the crash.

"Then I saw rubble falling from the building with all the smoking," he said.

The BBC's James Robbins
"Eyewitnesses feared the worst"
David Learmount, Flight International magazine
"I'm keeping an open mind about it at the minute"
The BBC's David Willey
"Italians are ruling out an act of sabotage or terrorism"
Eyewitness Damien Salsarola in Milan
"It wasn't a commerical plane"
See also:

18 Apr 02 | Europe
In pictures: Milan plane crash
18 Apr 02 | Business
Markets rattled by Milan plane crash
27 Mar 02 | Americas
US fears Easter attacks in Italy
20 Mar 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Italy
18 Apr 02 | Europe
Plane hits Milan skyscraper
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