Canadian Government, Investigators Say Bomb caused Crash
STEPHEN R. WILSON
Jan. 28, 1986
NEW DELHI, India (AP) _ Evidence indicates that a bomb exploded in the forward cargo compartment of an Air-India jumbo jet last year, causing it to crash into the Atlantic Ocean killing all 329 people aboard, said a Canadian government report released today.
The report by the Canadian Aviation Safety Board linked the June 23 explosion to a suitcase checked onto the flight in Canada by a man with a Sikh name who did not board the plane.
The report suggested the crash was connected to the suitcase explosion the same day at Tokyo's Narita Airport that killed two baggage handlers. That explosion occurred an hour before the Air-India blast, the report said.
''There is considerable circumstantial and other evidence to indicate that the initial event (on Air-India Flight 182) was an explosion occurring in the forward cargo compartment,'' said the report to an Indian government inquiry.
''There is a considerable amount of circumstantial and other evidence that an explosive device caused the occurrence,'' said the 59-page document submitted by Art LaFlamme, the Canadian board's chief investigator.
The Air-India Boeing 747 plunged 31,000 feet into the North Atlantic off Ireland without warning.
Previously undisclosed evidence analyzed in the Canadian report indicated that scorch marks were found on the underside of seat cushions, that the floor of a storage compartment on the jumbo jet's upper deck sustained a dome-shaped deformation, and that seat legs along the length of the aircraft were buckled.
''The bottoms of some seat cushions show indications of a possible explosion,'' said the report, but Canadian investigators were unable to determine where on the plane that the seat cushions came from.
''The deformation of the upper deck storage cabinet might have been caused by an explosive shock wave below the cabin floor,'' the report said.
The report also said seat legs along the entire length of the aircraft show signs of buckling as if hit by a powerful upward force.
On Monday, investigators for the Indian government and Boeing Co. said they had concluded that a bomb aboard the London-bound plane had caused the crash, but they disagreed on where it was placed.
''My opinion is that there was an explosive device in the aft (rear) of the airplane,'' Harold Piper, top accident investigator for Seattle-based Boeing, told the judicial inquiry.
But S.N. Seshadri, a voice recorder expert with India's Bhaba Atomic Research Center, said he believed the bomb blast took place 40 to 50 feet behind the cockpit.
Piper said he based his findings on analysis of the plane's wreckage spread over a 5 1/2 -square-mile area.
The explosion snapped electrical power lines feeding the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder, the so-called ''black boxes,'' Piper said.
He said the blast apparently broke up the plane at a high altitude and the wreckage was spread by wind currents.
Anonymous callers to news organizations in North America claimed responsibility for the crash on behalf of Sikh separatist groups.
Two Sikhs were arrested in Canada last November and charged with unlawful possession of explosives. Canadian police said the arrests were part of an investigation into the crash and an explosion the same day at a Tokyo airport that killed two baggage handlers.
However, the two were not formally linked to either incident and were released on bail.
Indian investigators say the explosion in Tokyo occurred in a piece of luggage from Canada being transferred to another Air-India jet.
''Although an explosive device could have been placed in a cargo hold in a number of ways, the available evidence points to the events involving the checked baggage of M. and L. Singh in Vancouver,'' the Canadian report said.
Singh, meaning lion, is a name used by all Sikh men.
The report said a man using the name M. Singh checked a suitcase onto a Canadian Pacific flight from Vancouver to Toronto, connecting with Air India Flight 182.
A man listed as L. Singh checked luggage onto a CP flight from Vancouver to Tokyo, connecting with another Air-India flight to Bangkok.
Neither man boarded the flights in Vancouver, the report said.