Milan, Italy — An SAS airliner taking off for Denmark hit a private jet that wandered across the runway, then careened into an airport building in a fiery crash that killed all 114 people on both planes and four people on the ground Monday. It was Italy's worst aviation disaster.
The people killed on the ground were airport workers at Milan's Linate Airport.
The government ruled out terrorism and said the crash was likely caused by human error compounded by poor visibility due to heavy morning fog.
"It's the worst day in our history," SAS spokesman Troels Rasmussen said.
The collision occurred at 8:10 a.m. as the SAS MD-87 bound for Copenhagen with 104 passengers, six crew members and full fuel tanks was accelerating on Linate's single runway.
A twin-engine Cessna jet, which was taking a potential buyer on a promotional flight, suddenly taxied onto the takeoff runway, said Alessandra Tripodi, a spokeswoman at the central government's office in Milan.
The SAS airliner careened off the runway from the impact and plowed into a baggage handling depot, the Interior Ministry said.
"I thought a bomb in a suitcase had exploded and I ran," Salvatore Reale, 59, a baggage handler, told reporters at Niguarda hospital, where he was treated for burns.
The Interior Ministry said the Cessna, a Citation II with four people aboard, crossed onto the takeoff runway by mistake after air traffic controllers told the pilot to taxi around it.
Italy's second-largest pilots' union said the accident could have been avoided if the ground radar, which can track aircraft on runways, had been activated.
All airlines that use Linate were told Oct. 1 that the radar wasn't working. In such circumstances, the rule in low visibility is that all aircraft are prohibited from crossing the runway, said Osvaldo Gammino, head of a committee representing airlines at Linate.
Aircraft must instead circle around the runway, he said.
"In this incident, it looks like the Cessna crossed the runway, which suggests an error was made in terms of following the regulations. It is now up to the magistrate to determine who is at fault," Gammino said.
The flight controllers' association, ENAV, said it appeared the Cessna pilot, despite having confirmed the instruction from the traffic controller, incorrectly went onto a taxiway that opened up onto the runway.
Transport Minister Pietro Lunardi put the confirmed death toll at 114 all 110 from the SAS flight and four from the Cessna. Tripodi's office said the bodies of the four ground workers had been found but could not be recovered.