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Indian Aviation Official Says No Evidence of Explosion or Fire

November 20, 1985

NEW DELHI, India (AP) _ An investigator testified today he found no evidence of fire or explosion in the bathrooms, cockpit or passenger cabin of the Air-India jetliner that crashed into the Atlantic in June with the loss of 329 lives.

Hoshiar Singh Khola, India’s director of air safety, was the first witness in a judicial hearing into the June 23 crash. He was questioned by Indian and Canadian lawyers in the high court hearing presided over by Justice Bhupinder Nath Kirpal.

Khola said examination of the cockpit door, 12 toilet doors and parts of the passenger cabin showed no evidence of fire or explosion.

However, he was not asked whether there were signs of an explosion in other parts of the aircraft, including the cargo hold.

The cause of the crash has not been determined, but Indian investigators have speculated a bomb may have exploded in the cargo hold in the undersection of the plane.

The Air-India jet was flying to Bombay, India, from Canada when it plunged into the Atlantic off the Irish coast. All 329 people aboard were killed.

Experts at the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said earlier this month that punctures found in the plane’s fuselage could have been caused by an explosion, but refused to speculate on the cause.

Investigators have said the holes could also have been caused by debris tossed about within the plane after it broke up.

Khola, who visited Ireland and Canada for his investigation, wrote a 200- page report on his findings. Copies were not available to the news media by order of the court.

A Canadian lawyer who spoke on condition of anonymity told The Associated Press that Khola listed 20 findings in the report but did not pinpoint the cause of the disaster.

Interrogated by I.G. Whitehall, a lawyer for the Canadian government, Khola said the plane’s floating wreckage indicated ″nothing remarkable″ caused the crash.

Khola said the cockpit wreckage was intact, suggesting that there was no explosion ″in the immediate vicinity″ of the plane’s cockpit area.

The official said he also found the wreckage of 12 bathroom doors intact, which he said indicated there was no explosion within the plane.

Khola also said, ″I do not find indications of fire.″

Canadian authorities detained two Canadian Sikhs on explosives charges in connection with the crash and a Tokyo airport bomb explosion which killed two baggage handlers the same day of the Air India crash. The two Sikhs have been released on bail.

Khola said the plane weighed more than 389 tons when it took off from Toronto, exceeding the regulated weight of about 368 tons for a Boeing 747.

Khola accused the Canadian government of responsibility for the crash, charging that passengers were not ″subject to frisking checks″ at the Toronto airport.

When cross-examined by Whitehall, he said he was told about the alleged lax security by an Air-India traffic representative in Toronto, whom he identified as J. Aviv, and did not confirm the allegation with other sources. Khola agreed with Whitehall’s contention that security was not an aspect of Aviv’s job.

Khola said the plane’s oxygen bottles found in the sea were empty, indicating they had been used by passengers.

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