Missile Caused 1980 Plane Crash: 32-Year Investigation Determines Final Court Ruling Against Italian State

By Staff Reporter on January 29, 2013 12:12 PM EST

italy crash
On June 27, 1980, Aerolinee Itavia Flight 870 was struck by a missile. (Photo: Wikipedia Commons)

On June 27, 1980, an Italian passenger jet broke just over the Mediterranean coast of Sicily. The horrible accident cost the lives of all 81 passengers aboard. For more than 30 years, the incident has become one of Italy's most enduring aviation mysteries.

Many theories have offered probable causes to the accident but after more than 20 years of investigations, experts could only assist the Italian court in 2004 to determine that the DC-9 passenger aircraft of the now-defunct Itavia domestic airline was destroyed in a "war-like scenario." Investigators believed the aircraft was destroyed by either a bomb or a missile.

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Now, new findings have determined that the aircraft was shot down with a missile. The year 1980 was a year of intense Cold War tensions and fighter aircraft from several NATO nations were in the area when the incident occurred. What's more, reports suggest that NATO forces were likely tracking a Libyan MIG fighter, which was evading radar control by buzzing past the Italian commercial aircraft at close range.

Another possibility is that the plane had obliviously entered airspace that was conducting military exercises. The passenger aircraft might have been struck by a fighter jet that had mistaken it for an intruder.

Regardless of the true intent of the missile, the Italian court finally determined on Monday that the state must pay damages to the victims' families because the safety of the passengers were severely compromised and ultimately failed. The Italian radar systems could not protect the skies.

To learn more about the tragic Italian plane crash of 1980, watch the video below.

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