Inquest Into Air-India Crash Hears Report Of Shout
CORK, Ireland (AP) _ A ″screech or a shout″ was picked up in a radio signal one minute after an Air-India jet disappeared from radar screens and crashed, killing all 329 people aboard, an air traffic controller said Tuesday.
Desmond Eglinton, chief air traffic control officer at Ireland’s Shannon Airport, told an inquest the unexplained noise probably indicated an emergency on board the aircraft.
The inquest was into the deaths of 131 victims whose bodies were recovered from the Atlantic, 120 miles off the southwest coast of Ireland where the Boeing 747 crashed on a flight from Canada to India on June 23.
Bodies of the other victims have not been found.
There has been speculation that a bomb may have exploded aboard the jetliner, but investigators say their examinations of parts of the wreckage have not provided such evidence.
The shouting sound was not noticed at the time it was transmitted but only later when a tape recording was played for investigators, Eglinton told the opening day of the inquest.
He said there were no problems when Air-India Flight 182 was cleared for British airspace by Shannon air traffic controllers.
But less than five minutes later and a minute after the plane disappeared from radar screens, a carrier wave - one which is not modulated - came up on the frequency and lasted approximately five or six seconds.
The carrier wave, which normally indicates that verbal contact is imminent, ended with what might have been ″a screech or a shout,″ Eglinton said.
″It was purely circumstantial and coincidental. The noise could have been made by a microphone being pressed.″
Eglinton agreed that the time of the carrier wave was ″critical.″ He said it could have come from any other aircraft on that frequency, although it was probable it came from the Air-India jet.
Pathologist Cuimin Doyle testified that post-mortem examinations of the 131 bodies showed no evidence of an explosion.
″There was no evidence of burning, noxious fumes or explosive substances being detected,″ he said.
However, Doyle agreed with coroner Cornelius Riordan that an explosion could have taken place in a vital part of the plane away from the passengers.
Dr. Tom O’Connor, head of the accident department at Cork regional hospital where the bodies were taken, said he knew of no burn marks on the bodies that might have indicated an explosion.
Lt. Cmdr. Ivor Milne, a Royal Navy officer involved in the search for bodies, testified that inflated lifejackets were spotted in the ocean.
″We had the feeling that some of the people had time to get their lifejackets partly inflated,″ he said. ″To inflate a lifejacket requires somebody to do it.″
The inquest, expected to last four days, will hear evidence from 18 witnesses, including pathologists, police, personnel involved in the rescue and recovery operation and airline officials.
Some Indian officials have said they believed the crash was caused by an explosion from a bomb planted by Sikh terrorists.
In New Delhi, a panel of experts was established Monday by the Indian court of inquiry to study the feasibility of salvaging more of the wreckage.
Justice B.N. Kirpal, heading the investigation, said the panel would include representatives of the governments of India, Canada, and Ireland, Air- India, the Boeing Co. and the U.S. National Transport Safety Board.