Service remembers 229 victims of Swissair Flight 111, 10 years after crash
2 hours ago
BAYSWATER, N.S. "” Family members of the victims of Swissair Flight 111 laid single flowers on Tuesday at the base of a memorial to the 229 people who lost their lives when the airliner crashed 10 years ago off the coast of Nova Scotia.
Some family members brushed their fingers over the names of their lost loved ones on the granite memorial in Bayswater as they filed past it during a 10-minute procession, the sound of two harps filling the air.
Heart-shaped rocks painted by a local resident were also left on the memorial, one for every person who died on the flight, which was bound for Geneva from New York on Sept. 2, 1998.
The plane crashed off the coast of Peggy's Cove as it tried to land at Halifax airport after the pilot reported what he believed was the smell of smoke in the cockpit.
Chris Martin, 53, of Kansas City, said he is always struck by the beauty of the place where his brother Joe - who was 43 - died.
"If he had to end, why not in such a beautiful place in the world," he said. "It was like it was his last gift to us."
David Wilkins, a spokesman for the families, said the support he gets from the community helps him cope with the loss of his 19-year-old son Monte.
"We are really comforted by the fact that people have not forgotten our loved ones," he said.
Tuesday's service was Wilkins ninth trip to the memorial from his home in California.
"The people here ... have made it really important for us to come back," he added. "It is a pilgrimage."
Hundreds of Nova Scotians contributed to recovery efforts after the crash, including fishermen and emergency workers, while others provided comfort to grieving families of victims as they arrived in Halifax.
Two memorials to the flight victims were established in the province.
One memorial is located at Whalesback, near Peggy's Cove. The other near Bayswater Beach Provincial Park is where Tuesday's service was held and it is where the remains of some victims are interred.
About 100 people attended the multi-faith prayer service.
Flight 111 lifted off from New York's JFK International Airport at 8:18 p.m. on that night with pilot Urs Zimmerman and co-pilot Stephan Loew at the controls.
The MD-11 immediately began tracking north along the coasts of New England and Nova Scotia before veering across the Atlantic to Europe.
The first 52 minutes of flight passed uneventfully. Then, with the plane already in Canadian airspace, Loew caught what he thought was the smell of smoke.
When they radioed air traffic control looking for a place to land, they were told that Halifax was less than 200 kilometres away.
Zimmerman turned the wide-body jet and began the descent from 33,000 feet.
Over the next several minutes, as an electrical fire in the ceiling over the cockpit spread, the pilots struggled to get the aircraft on the ground.
Eventually over land just 31 kilometres from Halifax airport, Zimmerman turned the aircraft back over the Atlantic Ocean to dump fuel before attempting a final approach.
It's not known exactly what happened in the final six minutes of the flight as the plane's electrical systems began to fail, including the voice cockpit recorder.
Tracking of the stricken jet showed it flying a tight circle over St. Margarets Bay before it disappeared.
The plane struck the water nose first at 10:31 p.m. AT, killing everyone aboard instantly.
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