VIENNA, Austria -- A commuter plane with 11 people aboard, including a government minister, crashed in thick fog Thursday into Lake Constance near the Swiss border, Austrian police said.
Regional police in the Austrian province of Vorarlberg searched the crash site, some 2 miles east of the Swiss lakeside town of Arbon, and said there was no hope of survivors.
Among the passengers on the Austrian Rhine Valley Airline plane was Alfred Dallinger, Austria's minister of social affairs since 1980, police said.
'It must be assumed that there are no survivors,' among the 11 aboard, said a police spokesman from the Swiss town of St. Gallen, which also borders Lake Constance.
He said police had found pieces of the plane and kerosene spilled over a large area of the lake, but by dusk had not recovered any of the bodies.
Technical failure or the poor weather were the most likely causes of the fatal crash, an Austrian police spokesman said.
Thick fog lowered visibility to only 15 feet and continued to hamper rescue operations by an Austrian submarine and a number of Swiss vessels and helicopters.
A West German news agency reported receiving an anonymous call from a group calling itself the Austrian Peoples' Army claiming responsibility for the crash. Austrian police said they had never heard of the group.
The twin-engine Commander AC-90 aircraft left Vienna early Thursday and was en route to Hohenems, near the Austrian provincial capital of Bregenz.
The plane was refused permission to land at Hohenems due to the heavy fog, then flew on to the Swiss town of Altenrhein, where the craft was also turned away because of low visibility.
The plane then circled over Lake Constance and attempted another approach to Altenrhein but failed and crashed into the lake.
Radio contact with the pilot was lost shortly after 11:00 a.m. and wreckage from the plane was spotted a short time later, including a wheel and parts of the wings, police said.
Dallinger, a member of the Austrian Socialist Party, was the longest serving minister in the current coalition Cabinet, having held his post since 1980.