I'm the brother of Bob Kokoruda. Both Bob and his wife Jean were on flight 111. We miss them every day. Although everything that happened and the sequence of events that night points to an accident, I have always wondered about the jewels that were never found. I have not been able to find any detailed discussion and or facts as to an investigation related to the 300 to 500 million dollars of jewels that supposedly was on-board in the cargo area.
When various people discuss the possibility of a terrorist act, I agree that since no one terrorist group stepped up to claim this act, that it probably eliminates that as real possibility. However, if it was theft, then keeping it as an accident would be the goal. For example, was it verified that the jewels were definitely aboard the flight? Again I have not seen any detail investigation eliminating this possibility.
I want to be clear, that I’m looking for the details that the jewel aspect of this incident has been investigated in-depth.
Does anyone have any information related to this aspect of the investigation?
Hi Dan. Even if the person (the name of which has never been disclosed) that 'shipped' those jewels really sent nothing, and convinced Lloyds there really was a shipment of valuables aboard, it wouldn't mean that it was their goal to have the plane crash. They could have been ready to claim that they were lost somewhere along the way, possibly by the baggage handlers.
I too have seen very little information about this and am not aware of any investigations that have taken place. You know that Lloyd's did try to go and recover them shortly after the crash, but family members successfully blocked their attempts?If they made a later attempt to recover the jewelry, I'm not sure we'd know about it.
Sorry if that didn't make sense. I'm not sure how they go about handling cargo like that! Of course there is also the possibility that the jewels were recovered early on by a dishonest diver. I don't know if we'll ever have any answers to this one.
Barbara, thanks for your quick response. I was aware of the request by Lloyd's and the reaction by some of the families(which I respect). However, it is not clear to me why this wasn't a part of the overall investigation given the value of the jewels and the circumstances.....
Regarding the owner of the jewels, there is no need to make the name public but all the details related to the cargo at JFK and people who touched the plane and cargo should have been interviewed.
Regarding the dishonest diver possibility, I would assume that the search parties were very aware of the need for security of what was being found and if properly supervised a very difficult task to steal that many jewels.
Barbara, again thanks
Dan I agree with what you said above. Maybe as a result of this documentary, more information will come out regarding the jewels, though I doubt it. It is very mysterious for sure.
Thanks for posting. You bring up some very interesting questions.
Here is an old article regarding these jewels, etc.
I live in East River, which is not far as the crow flies from the "crash site". I can only tell you what i saw in the days following the incident. Just down the road from me several hundred yards is a Union Hall, for the Union members of a local paper products plant. Within days this hall was being used by the RCMP to temporarily house their personnel.
I have lived in NS for a lot of years and this was the first time I ever seen RCMP carrying automatic weapons. I seen this several times as i have to drive by there to go to work. I thought at the time that seemed to be over-kill to me. It leads me to believe that they were very concerned about the crash site security. Were they concerned about the possibilty of the diamonds still being on the flight? Were they concerned about looters (not just diamond looters)?
It just seemed really like over-kill to me.
Sorry about your loss.
Questions still remain about the cargo that was on Swissair Flight 111, 17 years after the aviation disaster.
The Sept. 2, 1998 crash, which took the lives of 228 people, was carrying numerous diamonds, other jewels, paper currency and a Pablo Picasso painting.
Altogether $500 million worth of cargo is still not accounted for from the flight, according to a 2011 report from CBC News.
RELATED: Original coverage of the crash
Picasso had multiple paintings titled "Le Peintre," but one in particular may have been lost in flight 111.
The painter created the piece in question in 1963. It was being transported on the plane in a normal cargo container. Shortly after the crash, Swissair officials refused to identify the owner of the painting and who it was being sent to, but did say that the piece of art was destroyed, according to an Associated Press report that ran in the New York Daily News in Sept. 1998.
At the time, Swissair official Klaus Knappik said the painting was worth an estimated $1.5 million.
Two years prior to the crash, a painting with the same name was sold at an auction in London, according to a 1998 NY Times report. However, it was never confirmed that the painting from the auction was the version of Le Peintre lost on Flight 111.
Small pieces of the painting, about 20 centimeters, were recovered in the search effort, Operation Persistence, but the case it was being held in never was. Swissair Flight 111's cargo also included 4.4 pounds of watches, 110 pounds of U.S. paper currency, and 2.2 pounds of diamonds.
Altogether the search turned up 98 percent of the aircraft and 16 tons of cargo. None of the diamonds were recovered.
Mystery of lost diamonds endures, 20 years after the Swissair Flight 111 crash
When Swissair Flight 111 hit the water off Peggys Cove on Sept. 2, 1998, all 229 passengers and crew on board died instantly. (Reuters)
More than five kilograms of diamonds and jewels. A Picasso worth millions. Nearly 50 kilograms in cash.
The fate of many millions of dollars of valuables said to be carried aboard Swissair Flight 111 when it went down off Nova Scotia 20 years ago this Sunday remains unknown.
Insiders say the mystery may never be solved — an attempt to salvage the precious cargo was quickly abandoned, and any treasure hunters who seek to find it are doing it illegally.
"There was a lot of talk about it after the crash, that there had been all these valuables on board. That was a big deal," said Stephen Kimber, author of the book Flight 111: A Year in the Life of a Tragedy.
"Somewhere down at the bottom of the ocean, theoretically, are those diamonds."
Timeline: Swissair 111 crash investigation
When the plane hit the water off Peggys Cove on Sept. 2, 1998, all 229 passengers and crew on board died instantly and the fuselage shattered into several million pieces.
A ship equipped with a giant vacuum was brought in to suck up debris from the sea floor. The Transportation Safety Board's investigation report said more than 18,000 kilograms of cargo were recovered, but does not go into further detail.
According to Kimber, the plane's manifest included a diamond from a Nature of Diamonds exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, one kilogram of other diamonds and about 4.5 kilograms of other jewelry, 49 kilograms of cash, and a multimillion-dollar version of Picasso's Le Peintre.
Company wants to search for Swissair diamonds
Insurer Lloyd's of London reportedly paid out an estimated $300 million for the diamonds and other jewels, and had applied for a treasure-trove licence from the Nova Scotia government to search the site following the federal investigation. But that plan outraged many of the victims' relatives, and the company eventually withdrew its application.
Lloyd's did not return a request for comment this week.
A two-kilometre-square exclusion zone around the site was maintained for just over a year following the crash, the RCMP said.
"RCMP, DFO (Department of Fisheries and Oceans) and the Coast Guard conducted patrols of the area to maintain security of the scene. If someone tried to enter the area, they could have been charged with obstruction under the Criminal Code, or perhaps other offences under the various federal acts that might apply," said Nova Scotia RCMP spokeswoman Cpl. Jennifer Clarke in an email statement.
"Once the restrictions were lifted, the RCMP would not be aware of people going to the area to search for valuables, as it would not have been an offence or a police matter. This continues to be the case."
'Intrigue and deception'
John Wesley Chisholm, a Halifax-based TV documentary producer who has worked on shows including Clive Cussler's The Sea Hunters, raised the possibility that international treasure hunters could have been quietly searching the area in the years following the crash under treasure trove licences for nearby sites — including the wreck of HMS Fantome in Prospect, N.S.
"It's a business that's riddled with intrigue and deception," said Chisholm, adding that there are roughly 10,000 shipwrecks along Nova Scotia's rugged coastline.
"A very common treasure-hunting technique is to say, 'Oh yeah we're looking for this wreck over here,' like the Fantome … where they may in fact have been looking for the Swissair treasure."
Chisholm said Nova Scotia's laws at the time made it "the wild west of treasure hunting in the ocean," but the rules were out of sync with global standards.
Treasure hunting illegal
Today, treasure hunting is illegal in Nova Scotia.
Lynette MacLeod, a spokeswoman for department of Communities, Culture and Heritage, said paleontology and archeology sites on land and in water, under public or private ownership, are protected under the Special Places Protection Act.
"Those who damage or destroy important sites face stiff penalties under the Criminal Code of Canada, and stop-orders are enforced if sites are threatened by development. All enforcement is through RCMP and other law enforcement agencies," said MacLeod.
"The Government of Nova Scotia highly discourages any diving activity or treasure hunting in the area of the Swissair crash out of respect for the crash victims and families involved in the tragedy."
Chisholm said the current provincial restrictions were implemented roughly a decade ago, "And the whole world of treasure hunting went radio silent after that."
But that doesn't mean it's not still happening.
Timothy Lightfoot, a commercial diver from the Halifax area, said it's known within the small diving community that there are "pirate" divers.
"There are people in this province, divers, rogues, that are out raiding treasure wrecks and plane crashes for their own benefit," said Lightfoot, who has been a commercial diver for 17 years.
Swissair crash may not have been an accident: ex-RCMP
Asked if he has heard of pirate divers scouring the Swissair site, Lightfoot said: "I'm not saying no one has ever gone there, I'm saying, they're not talking about it."
He said the tragedy not only took the lives of 229 men, women and children, it had an emotional toll on the people who worked on the investigation.
"If you tell me you were diving down on Swissair, I have a lower opinion of your moral ethics," said Lightfoot.
Nevertheless, Chisholm believes some treasure hunters see it differently.
"Treasure, it just makes people crazy.… Somehow, it just pulls on the psyche of men to do crazy things," he said.
"The notion that there could be $300 million of diamonds just there, out of sight, just away from where everyone is, is just an absolutely irresistible pull for a certain kind of person."
Swissair lead investigator rejects crash theory
Kimber's book said Picasso's Le Peintre, valued at C$2.2 million, wasn't specially packaged for shipping — it was simply inside a wooden frame and stowed with the rest of the general cargo.
But other cargo was handled with greater care, the book said.
It said the plane's valuables case — a one-metre-high aluminum container with reinforced walls, a locked door and a metal seal — contained the exhibition diamond, which was being shipped back to its owner in Europe, along with 49 kilograms of banknotes destined for a U.S. bank in Geneva and the jewelry.
"If Flight 111 had become well known as a shuttle bus for United Nations staff, it was equally popular, if publicly less well known, as a courier service for jewellers who used the flight to transport valuables back and forth between gem centres in the United States and Europe," an excerpt from the book reads.
Kimber noted it's not known if the valuables even survived the crash.
"What you essentially have is a plane going 500 kilometres an hour and hitting water, which is like concrete," he said.
"What happened was in one third of a second, the tail of the plane was in the nose of the plane.… So it's hard to know what happened to the things that were aboard the plane."
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