Police: 3 Dead, Several Wounded In Switzerland Factory Shooting

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(CNN) — An employee killed two people before fatally shooting himself at a lumber plant near the central Swiss city of Lucerne on Wednesday, local media reported.

Police said seven people were hurt in the attack, six of them seriously, according to the Lucerne-based daily newspaper Neue Luzerner Zeitung.

The gunman, 42, was a long-time employee of Kronospan, a wood panel manufacturer in the village of Menznau, police said.

Why he opened fire with a handgun as employees were taking a morning break is not yet clear.

Rescuers flew four critically wounded people to two hospitals, air rescue spokeswoman Karine Hoerhager said.

Initial reports suggested the number of people killed might have been higher. Police have yet to name the two people shot dead by the gunman.

After the shooting, officers cordoned off a wide area around the factory, Lucerne county police spokesman Urs Wigger said Wednesday.

The incident took place at 9 a.m. in Menznau, about 30 kilometers (19 miles) outside Lucerne. The factory employs 350 people, the newspaper said.

Local media reports suggest the plant has had to cut production because of a reduction in the timber harvest.

A statement posted in five languages on Kronospan’s Swiss website read: “It is with tremendous sadness that we must confirm that there has been a shooting incident at our factory this morning, resulting in multiple serious injuries and fatalities. The shock and grief at Kronospan is not possible to put into words.”

The posting also included a hotline number for employees. That hotline has been “widely used,” according to a Lucerne police statement.

Representatives for the company’s U.S. and UK branches said they had limited information about what happened and offered their condolences.

“It’s a terrible tragedy, and our thoughts are with the families of the people who have lost their lives,” the UK spokesman said.

“We, too, are deeply saddened by this tragic event, and our thoughts are with our Swiss colleagues and the families of those involved,” said the U.S. spokeswoman.

Police have not determined whether the firearm used in the shootings was privately owned or issued by the military, the newspaper said.

Ismail Osman, a reporter for the Lucerne newspaper, told CNN International’s Michael Holmes that Switzerland’s longstanding tradition of letting citizen-militia keep military-issued weapons has been questioned in recent years.

“It came to a pinnacle about two years ago, when we had a national vote if we should actually continue this tradition or not. An overwhelming majority said ‘yes’ to continuing that tradition. However, I’m sure the debate will pick up again after today,” Osman said.

The Menznau Kronospan factory, which makes wood products under the brand name Kronoswiss, is one of 10 plants in seven countries run by the Swiss Krono Group, according to the company’s website.

Its U.S. subsidiary, Kronotex USA, says on its website that the company has been a family business since its inception in 1897 in Austria, and its total annual sales exceed $1 billion.

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