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Planes crashed in 'ball of flames'

Emergency services sealed off the 30-km-radius crash site
Emergency services sealed off the 30-km-radius crash site  

UEBERLINGEN, Germany -- The two planes that crashed at 36,000 feet exploded in a ball of flames spreading wreckage over the German countryside.

Witnesses raced to their windows after hearing the crash and watched as the two planes fell to Earth.

Through the night, rescue crews in helicopters used infrared cameras in an attempt to locate bodies, and hundreds of people searched the ground.

At least 70 people -- including 52 children -- were on board the Tupolev 154 that collided with a Boeing 757 cargo plane that had two crew on board.

School caretaker Klaus-Dieter Schindler told Reuters: "I saw a ball of fire in the sky. Behind the forest it looked like a firework display was going off.

CNN's Diane Muriel reports on the midair tragedy that claimed 71 lives (July 2)

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"But in the glow of the fire I saw wreckage falling out of the sky. It looked like black rain."

By daybreak rescuers had recovered 12 bodies from a 30-km (20-mile) radius crash site near the German-Swiss border about 190 km (120 miles) southwest of Munich.

Heike Stark told CNN: "The windows were trembling. The walls were trembling. It seemed like the whole house was trembling."

She said there was a giant fireball in the sky and pieces of the planes were "falling down very slowly, turning around themselves -- burning pieces like fire."

Stark said she and her husband got in their car and drove to see what happened. Police and emergency vehicles were all over the countryside and many main roads were blocked off.

A large section of a plane was burning in a meadow, sending up "a lot of smoke."

"The plane part was huge, and it was a terrible smell in the air," she said.

Paul Tanzer said he saw "three big fireballs coming down."

"There was a big noise, and then there was a very deep rumbling from above the clouds," he told CNN. "And then came three parts of the airplane."




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