New questions raised over swissair crash

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Wed September 14 2011, 04:29 PM
New questions raised over swissair crash
More than a decade after Swissair Flight 111 crashed into the waters off Peggy's Cove, N.S., new questions have surfaced over what actually caused the plane to go down and how the investigation was conducted.

Tom Juby, a veteran RCMP forensic investigator assigned to the probe, said he uncovered evidence early on that suggested an incendiary device may have been planted on the plane but that he was prevented by his superiors from following up fully on the evidence and was even directed to alter his notes.

After trying for the past several years to get senior RCMP officials to re-examine the case, he said he decided to go public.

"My opinion is it was extremely suspicious and we should've continued testing," Juby, now retired, said Friday in a phone interview. "I was shut down."

Juby is scheduled to appear this Friday in a documentary about the Swissair crash on the CBC's The Fifth Estate.

Flight 111, which was flying from New York to Geneva, crashed on the night of Sept. 2, 1998, killing all 229 passengers and crew members. The Transportation Safety Board later concluded that wiring above the cockpit likely sparked flammable material and that the fire quickly spread.

But Juby says an abnormally excessive amount of magnesium, iron and aluminum was found in some of the short-circuited wires, which could suggest the use of an incendiary device.

Followup testing performed from 1999 to 2001 could not locate a source for those elements, Juby said. He says his bosses decided no further testing was needed and demanded that he remove from his notes any references suggesting that the cause of the crash may have been criminal.

In April 2007, Juby asked the RCMP's top brass to re-examine the way the investigation was handled.

According to a briefing note obtained by Postmedia News, then-RCMP Commissioner Beverley Busson asked the force's Office of the Ethics Adviser to "fully examine the allegations of cover up" in July 2007. A Department of Justice lawyer was also assigned to take part in the review.

In a four-page letter dated March 18, 2009, Sandra Conlin, then the RCMP's ethics adviser, told Juby she couldn't find any evidence that Juby's superiors tried to influence the outcome of the investigation.

"A group of 11 members trained in the identification field reviewed your file notes," Conlin wrote. "It was found that a large number of your notes were personal speculations and theories based on your belief that the Swissair Flight 111 air disaster may have been caused by a criminal act."

It was not unreasonable, Conlin said, for Juby's supervisors to ask him to "review, edit, and remove non-factual information" from his notes. Notes should only be used to "record what you observe, hear, say and do during the course of your investigation."

A spokeswoman for the RCMP said Wednesday that the force stands by Conlin's findings.

And the Transportation Safety Board stands by its finding that the crash was an accident, said spokesman Chris Krepski.

"Many agencies took part in the investigation, among them the RCMP," he said. "Had there been any convincing evidence of a criminal act, the RCMP would have taken over as lead investigator. The fact that they did not speaks to the consensus reached that the tragedy was, in fact, an accident."

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Wed September 14 2011, 09:11 PM
I just heard about this right this second. I can't imagine how you must be feeling right now Barb. Although you probably had heard something about this before. I don't know if you have access to watch the special on Friday but if you don't I'll do all I can to get you a copy if you want me to. Usually CBC posts these types of things online but it may not work outside of Canada.

If you need anything email me at murrays79 at gmail dot com.

I used to respect the TSB and the RCMP, but if they participated in a cover up I think all Canadians should demand they be held responsible.

"Those Who Don't Learn From The Past Are Doomed To Repeat It."
Wed September 14 2011, 09:19 PM
Murray, I don't think the TSB in particular, would participate in anything like this. I'm very skeptical of this new information 13 years after the tragedy. Thanks so much for your concern.
Wed September 14 2011, 09:32 PM
I can't believe for example, that Vic Gerden would knowingly be involved in any kind of cover-up. The man seemed to have an incredible amount of integrity. The investigators worked so hard, for 5 long years putting together the pieces of the puzzle in a way that made total sense.

Think of the collusion that would have to have occurred for this information to be concealed. That is highly unlikely.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: BF,
Wed September 14 2011, 09:43 PM
Yeah I felt that way as well, never actually having met him. I'm glad you're doin ok with it. But still it must be rough.

The only thing that gives me pause is the CBC getting behind it. I respect the CBC and if it turns out they're on a wild goose chase I'd lose some of that respect.

Again if you need anything just let me know.

"Those Who Don't Learn From The Past Are Doomed To Repeat It."
Wed September 14 2011, 09:47 PM
Murray, I'm just really glad you're around. I do have to agree with you about the CBC. I do find it very surprising that they would get involved in this as well.