Crash: Families of Swissair victims react to new allegations
Stumble Upondel.icio.usDiggFacebookPrintEmailSpeak UpA family member of one of the victims of the 1998 Swissair crash off Nova Scotia said Thursday he doesn't quite know what to make of revelations that suggest one of Canada's worst aviation disasters may not have been an accident.
Darren Wilkins, whose 19-year-old brother Monte Wilkins was one of 229 people who died in the crash, said his family developed a "very real feeling of trust" over the way officials handled the investigation. Part of him doesn't want to rehash the painful memories, but there's also a part of him that is intrigued.
"You have an insatiable need to know why and how," said Wilkins, of Bozeman, Mont.
Tom Juby, a retired veteran RCMP forensic investigator who was assigned to the probe, said this week that evidence recovered from the wreckage suggested an incendiary device may have been planted on the plane.
But Juby said he was prevented by his superiors from following up fully on the evidence and was even directed to alter his notes. He said he decided to go public after failing to get senior RCMP officials to re-examine the case.
"My opinion is it was extremely suspicious and we should've continued testing," Juby said from his home in New Minas, N.S. "I was shut down."
Juby will be featured in a documentary on the CBC's The Fifth Estate, which airs Friday night.
A spokeswoman for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews maintained Thursday that the crash of Swissair Flight 111, which was bound from New York to Geneva, was a "tragic accident."
"The RCMP and TSB (Transportation Safety Board) investigated at the time of the crash and through subsequent inquiries into these allegations," Julie Carmichael said. "We understand the investigators concluded that all credible evidence suggests the crash was caused by an in-flight electrical fire."
But NDP justice critic Joe Comartin said families deserve a more fulsome response from the government as to why Juby wasn't allowed to follow through on his inquiries.
"If he's a good officer and done good investigations - they've got to come out quickly and say why they did not pursue the investigation he was recommending," he said.
Wilkins said his instant reaction after learning of the new allegations was that if this was an act of terrorism, why hasn't anyone claimed responsibility for it?
"After all these years going by, it'd be surprising to me that somebody would've done that and not claim credit," he said.
Andre Gerolymatos, a terrorism expert at Simon Fraser University, said Wilkins raises a valid point. The whole "raison d'etre" of terrorism is to instil fear, he said.
"These guys are anxious to take credit for anything. Why would they keep it hidden?" said Wilkins.
But while he is skeptical of the terrorism angle, he said that doesn't mean the plane couldn't have been targeted for other reasons. Maybe someone wanted someone on the plane killed or maybe it was industrial sabotage, he said.
Among the passengers on the plane were a Saudi prince and distinguished United Nations workers.
The McDonnell Douglas MD-11 had been airborne for about 53 minutes when flight crew smelled an odour in the cockpit and then began to see smoke, according to the Transportation Safety Board's report.
As the crew prepared to land the plane in Halifax, a fire was spreading above the ceiling in the front of the plane, the report said. Minutes later, the plane's flight data recorder began to record a "rapid succession of aircraft systems-related failures." The plane crashed about five nautical miles southwest of Peggy's Cove, N.S.
The fire "most likely" started from a wire-arcing event that ignited nearby insulation blankets, the report concluded. The presence of "significant amounts" of flammable materials allowed the fire to "spread and intensify rapidly."
I did not infer from this report that the ex RCMP officr actually concluded a criminal act had been committed (except that of obstruction of justice by his suuperiors who would not permit him to carry out how he perceived his duties) but that he was instead thwaarted in his attempt to complete the task to which he had been assigned. Despite my preconceived bias in thinking he wants to vindicate hiomself in some way for something I do not understand and my anger at raising all the horror of those days agaimn, he came across as more down to earth and not the egotist I'd anticipated. (Not that many Cdns gravitate toward egotism (g), I thought he presented a rather clear case of really just wanting and hoping someone might actually investigate this angle to see if what he had discovered held merit. I doubt any of us can actually be too critical of that other than the terrible toll it takes in rethinking all of this again. I was surprised actually. He seemed sane, concerned and I suppose I'd even say "indignent" about the lack of a criminal probe. He never uttered the word terrorism but the program did note the many expensive items in the cargo and pted out that not one of the diamonds there were found. Were they ever there is my 1st q on that issue? Did the RCMP work with say Swiss Air and other companies in seeking to find what was in those boxes in cargo? Though this does beg the question if one wanted these diaminds, why blow up the plane and head it into water? Perhaps they thought it would crash on land in which case it would still be cordoned off. They had to know the route. Why were the cos not asked what was in the hold or was that asked and this man never knew? It is all most perplexing. The scientist who q's the mg found is also credible in his field so that is also of interst. As in Mr. Pink, one of the most respected lawyers in Atlantic Canada, noting he has never heard of an RCMP officer shut down like this. It brings up more questions than anything really but in the end, it does not bring back the lives of lost loved ones and that is what is most important!! How do others feel?
Janey, I'm really glad you're here to post. Please don't get offended in anyway when I tell you that I find this documentary not very impressive at all. I thought the information provided that is supposed to make us question the results of the investigation, is very weak.
Not to worry. It IS weak. Some observations about the character of the officer of the mg issue I dare say may not get this reopened. I actuallu expected more fireworks. As I said in the PM, it reminds me of of movie promo where the only intresting part of the movie IS the promo. I do believe he is seeking vindication and in essence, is an examination of why a criminal probe did not occur - based on his and the scientist (a man who does have some good creds and is not the type I understand to do this kind of thing, VERY out of character) and is more about his own personal journey re the "obstruction of justice" he PERCEIVES by his superiors. Not much more than that really and sadly, rasies so much for so many who do not need to be reminded of such a horrific event and time in your lives!!
I would add as well Lionden m,ight have been better off to investigate the way the NTSB oiperates and what was happening at that time rather than dwell on the hurt feelings of a ret. officer who is worried he MAY have missed something. A lawyer trying to reopen this case would be hard pressed to find any Judge to issue Supenas for example. The mg issue MIGHT do it but I dare say more would be needed. There are other scientists who may disagree and so forth. It would depend on too many esoteric variables (legally speaking) I am well aware the loss of anyone under any circumstance like this is hardly obscuyre and dso not mean to suggest that. In fact, I think for this man to ear his soul or bear witness ort whatever it is he needs to do and hurt so many people in the process seems callous though I somehow doubt while he may have given thought to it, he knows what the loss of a child is like. And I know I have never overcame it, never will and do not expect to. I live with it the best I can. That is all I can expect to do. I do not dwell on it but it impacts every choice I make in my life and how I live my life!! Please take care! I hope it was niot too upsetting for you and the other families!
Regional NewsLead investigator in Swissair crash dismisses claim of incendiary device
HALIFAX - One of the lead investigators in the crash of Swissair 111 is dismissing claims an incendiary device could have brought down the plane.
Larry Vance says there's clear evidence of just the opposite.
Vance spent years with the Transportation Safety Board investigating the 1998 accident off Nova Scotia.
He says he and his colleagues dismissed the possibility of an incendiary device after finding a single wire they concluded was the source of the fire.
Vance says if there was an incendiary device, there would have been much more damage in the area in the cockpit where the fire started.
He was responding to new claims about the cause of the crash being made by a former RCMP officer who was involved in the Swissair investigation.
Tom Juby said in a CBC documentary airing Friday that investigators didn't sufficiently look into the possibility an incendiary device brought down the plane.
A total of 229 people died in the crash of the MD-11.
Janey, thanks so much for that information. I have found your posts extremely helpful! That's good to see Larry Vance speaking out. I agree with you that no judge would ever allow a case like this to go forward- especially in Canada.
This is what I feel the CBC should really be looking into in regards to the swissair crash. I'm surprised they have ignored it.
At least 19 pages of the final report were devoted to this poorly designed entertainment system.
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