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.