Confidential Swissair 111 Report Distributed

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World - AP Canada
Swissair Crash Probe Completed
Thu Aug 29, 9:57 PM ET

By TOM COHEN, Associated Press Writer

TORONTO (AP) - Canadian investigators have sent out a draft report on the 1998 Swissair crash off Nova Scotia, completing their probe almost four years after the accident that killed all 229 people on board.

   

Transportation Safety Board spokesman John Cottreau said Thursday the confidential report was distributed to all involved parties this month for comment.

The final report was expected to be made public early next year, said Cottreau, who declined to discuss any details of the draft report.

"The data collection and investigation has concluded," he said. "Now we're into the confidential draft report phase."

Jean Overney, head of the Swiss investigation office, confirmed the Swiss Federal Office for Civil Aviation received a copy of the draft report. Overney said no official comment would come until the final report gets published.

Swissair Flight 111 plunged into the Atlantic Ocean en route from New York to Geneva on Sept. 2, 1998. Pilots reported smoke in the cockpit 53 minutes into the trip, and the electrical systems began failing 15 minutes later.

Cottreau called the investigation the largest ever conducted by Canada's transportation safety board. Investigators used 2 million pieces of recovered wreckage, some as small as a dollar coin, to partially reconstruct the MD-11 jetliner.

Asked why it took almost four years to conclude the investigation, Cottreau said the board takes however much time is required to complete its work.

Swissair went out of business in October 2001, shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States that crippled the air travel industry worldwide.

The investigation has determined a fire in the ceiling at the front of the plane caused the crash. Investigators focused their probe on charred wiring, but have yet to say what caused the fire.

Two years ago, the Canadian safety board recommended that airlines do a better job of training and equipping crews to detect and fight fires on planes.

An earlier recommendation by investigators noted safety problems with the plane's insulation blankets, which have been suspected of spreading fire. The FAA ( news - web sites) in the United States responded by requiring removal of the insulation blankets from all U.S.-registered MD-11 aircraft.

In March, a U.S. federal judge dismissed claims for punitive damages for families of victims of the Swissair crash.

______

On the Net:

Transportation Safety Board, http://www.tsb.gc.ca


 

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Relatives fight for look at Swissair draft report
Safety officials might send copy to families after distributing it to 'involved parties' for comment
By Michael Lightstone

Days before the fourth anniversary of the Swissair disaster, families of those killed were stunned to learn Ottawa has distributed a draft report on the crash investigation's findings.

But relatives of 229 people who died in the accident may also get copies of the confidential document, a Transportation Safety Board spokesman said Friday.

John Cottreau said board policy "doesn't exclude the families" but didn't know how or when they might find out the details.

Earlier this month, the board sent the report to "involved parties" for comment. A senior official with the Swiss Federal Office for Civil Aviation confirmed the agency got a copy.

Miles Gerety, an American whose brother died in the Sept. 2, 1998, plane crash off Peggys Cove, said that means government regulators and aviation manufacturers will review the draft report before families do.

The board has said a final report will be released early in 2003.

Mr. Gerety said Canadian investigators "have been very good to the families" since the probe began, showing compassion and "bending over backwards" to share information with them.

"But I'd like to know what killed my brother," Mr. Gerety said.

Now that a draft report on the crash of Swissair Flight 111 is circulating, he said the victims' relatives may hear leaked details that could be sensationalized in media reports.

Mr. Gerety, head of an international association of Swissair families, recently sent letters to relatives of those killed and to the board, saying investigators should brief the families now.

"The news of why a loved one died is still a sensitive topic that opens an old wound," he wrote.

"Thus it is particularly important for the well-being of air-crash families that bad news be broken gently and not through news headlines or the calls of aggressive reporters seeking family reaction."

Mr. Cottreau refused comment on Mr. Gerety's letter but said Swissair families might be eligible to read the draft report.

He said board policy stipulates that those allowed to review the document are people "who might see themselves as being adversely affected by the report."

This may include next of kin."

But Mr. Cottreau couldn't say whether any copies have been sent to victims' relatives.

New Jersey resident Hans Ephraimson-Abt, chairman of a group of air-crash families, was buoyed by Ottawa's policy of possibly releasing a draft report to Swissair families.

He said only French investigators provided families with their draft on the first anniversary of the July 2000 Concorde crash.

"If we could create a second precedent after the Concorde, then maybe we can institutionalize it in other countries," said Mr. Ephraimson-Abt, whose daughter died in 1983 on Korean Airlines Flight 007 when it was shot down over Russia.

Swissair's Boeing MD-11 plunged into St. Margaret's Bay en route to Geneva from New York City. The pilot reported smoke in the cockpit and was dumping fuel over the Atlantic Ocean when the plane went down, killing everyone aboard.

Investigators have determined there was a fire in the ceiling at the front of the plane but haven't made public the fire's cause.

The recovery operation and crash probe cost $54.8 million.

Mr. Gerety, a lawyer in Bridgeport, Conn., lost his 56-year-old brother, Pierce, in the disaster. Four years later, he and others are still waiting to find out what went wrong on Flight 111.

"The families have been told we will have a briefing shortly before the final report is released in 2003," Mr. Gerety said.

"We think we should be briefed now or at least receive a summary" of the draft document.

On Monday, public and private anniversary events are planned for Peggys Cove, Bayswater and Blandford.

Mr. Gerety said a number of Swissair victims' relatives will be in Nova Scotia for the anniversary, but he couldn't say how many.

http://www.herald.ns.ca/stories/2002/08/31/f202.raw.html
 

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