On Sept 2, 1998, Swiss Air flight 111 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean at 10:24 pm, 13 km out from Peggy’s Cove, NS and only 43 km west of Halifax where it was trying to make an emergency landing. All 229 people on board were killed instantly. As an airline tragedy in Canadian territory, it is second only to the Arrow Air Flight in 1986 in Gander, NL, which killed 256 people. The pilots, heading from New York’s JFK airport to Geneva, Switzerland, reported smoke in the cabin 56 minutes into the flight and asked to make an emergency landing in Boston, 555 km away. They were cleared for landing, but offered to land in Halifax, only 129 km, which the pilots accepted. They almost made it — they might have managed an emergency landing if the plane had stayed aloft for another 7-8 minutes.
The Transportation and Safety Board (TSB) investigation took 5 years and $57 million. The plane had hit the water at a speed of 555 km/hr, resulting in a force 350 times the force of gravity, causing the plane to essentially disintegrate on impact. The recovery process yielded over 2,000,000 pieces of debris. Ultimately, it was found that a fire had started in the cockpit (probably due to faulty wiring, although the initial cause of the fire could not be determined). Unfortunately, none of the plane’s instruments alerted crew to the fire so it was well-established by the time it was noticed. The fire destroyed various plane functions, leading to a loss of control; the pilots could not have done anything more to save the plane.
Local residents heard the bang as the plane hit the water and it didn’t take long for fishermen and others with boats to head out to help with rescue efforts. However, the plane’s brutal impact meant that these good samaritans discovered a rather gruesome field of debris, in which there were more body parts than bodies. Although a number had lost friends and family in shipwrecks, war, and other tragedies, many were traumatized by the sight of the wreckage they encountered.
Swissair 111 Tragedy, Maclean’s, Sept 14, 1998, published in The Canadian Encyclopedia.
Swissair Flight 111, Wikipedia