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The Crash | Transcript | Links
swissair tragedyMatthew Malowany
CBC NEWS ONLINE

The Crash

On the night of September 2, 1998, Swissair Flight 111 was following its regular course from New York to Geneva. As it flew near the Nova Scotia coast the cockpit filled with smoke.


The pilots put on their emergency masks and manoeuvred the plane to dump fuel into the Ocean in preparation for an emergency landing in Halifax. They never made it. As they circled, the Boeing MD-11 plunged into the ocean. All 229 persons aboard the plane perished.

Word of the accident spread quickly through the small towns that mark the south shore of Nova Scotia. These are people who live off the sea, people who are familiar with tragedy.

They sprang into action, ignoring bad weather and rough seas. Quickly they were on the water, but though they circled the crash site with spotlights they could not find a single survivor. Then they turned their efforts to recovering the dead and picking up debris.

Over the next few days the scenic tourist spot of Peggy's Cove became headquarters for an international investigation. Military and civilian personnel launched a massive effort to recover the remains of the dead or plane wreckage from open waters and the nearby beaches. Relatives of the dead flew in from Europe and the United States to grieve.

Off the coast, teams of divers worked in rough water and low visibility, trying to locate important evidence from the crash. The cleanup was code-named "Operation Perseverance," and covered miles of beaches and more than 100 square kilometers on and under the water. It was a coordinated effort of the RCMP, and the Canadian Coast Guard, Navy, and Armed Forces.

The investigation could take many more months. The Canadian Transportation Safety Board is leading the inquiry, with assistance from Swiss officials, two agencies from the United States, and representatives of the aircraft's manufacturer.

Although no cause of the crash has been determined, preliminary indications point to faulty wiring. By January, investigators were urging the U.S and Canadian governments to order inspections of the wiring on MD-11 jets. They said they had found problems in overhead cockpit wiring leading to circuit breakers.