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Air India Flight 182

It was deemed the worst act of terrorism in Canadian history: 331 people were killed in two decisive and deliberate explosions — one in a Japanese airport, another aboard Air India flight 182 in 1985. For the families of the victims, most of them Canadian, this was just the beginning. Charges of investigative bungling would be followed by the more startling accusations that CSIS, Canada's security agency, intentionally initiated a coverup. For over 20 years Canadians have grappled with this unsolved crime for which no one has yet had to pay.

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An explosion tears through Narita airport in Japan as suitcases, unloaded from a Canadian Airlines plane, pass through the baggage terminal. Approximately an hour later and half a world away, Air India flight 182 nears the coast of Ireland en route to New Delhi from Vancouver. 329 passengers are on board, of which 279 are Canadian.

Without communicating any signs of distress, flight 182 falls off the radar screen and crashes into the ocean. CBC Television shares the distressing news of the disasters as rescue crews rush to the scene of the crash.
Court documents showed that on June 6, 1985, Air India warned the Canadian government of threats of sabotage.

• The investigation uncovered that the Canadian Airlines reservation desk received a phone call from a man asking to reserve two seats in June 1985. The first ticket, bound for Narita, Japan from Vancouver, was booked under the name L. Singh. The second ticket, headed for Toronto and New Delhi from Vancouver, was reserved under the name M. Singh. A bearded man estimated to be in his 40s and wearing a saffron coloured turban paid for the tickets in cash at the Canadian Airlines ticket office.

• Neither L. Singh nor M. Singh were on board Air India flight 182.

• On June 22, 1985, an Indo-Canadian man approached the CP ticket desk and insisted that his bags be checked through to New Delhi. Ticket agent Jeanne Bakermans initially refused since his seat had not yet been confirmed. But after a lengthy argument she relented and accepted the bags. Shortly thereafter, she checked bags for a second man. These suitcases contained the bomb that exploded in the Narita airport.

• The suitcase that exploded in the Narita airport was unloaded from Canadian Airlines flight 003. Passengers on this flight, which had been delayed, were expected to connect with Air India flight 301 en route to Bombay. It would later be argued in the trial of one suspect, Inderjit Singh Reyat, that the bomb was intended to detonate with a plane full of passengers.

• Baggage handlers Kode Ideharu and Asano Hideo were killed in the Narita airport explosion. Four others were injured.

• Rescue crews recovered 131 bodies from the ocean in the Air India flight 182 crash. A total of 19 boats and aircraft participated in the recovery effort.

• At the time of the crash, the RCMP called the bombing "the most serious act of terrorism perpetrated on Canadian soil in the history of the country."

• Rescue workers sifted through the plane debris and floating baggage. Sean Murphy of the Valentia Island lifeboat described the process as "horrific." "None of us have ever experienced anything like this before," he told CBC Radio in 1985.

• Family members rushed to the recovery site in Cork, Ireland upon learning of the crash. Reporter Peter McCluskey covered the story for CBC Television. He later recalled the pilgrimage of the victims' family members in a CBC editorial "I don't think I'll ever forget the tears, the weeping, the grief, the loss, the pain. It was so personal, so private, yet so public."

Medium: Television
Program: CBC News
Broadcast Date: June 23, 1985
Host: Don Newman
Reporter: Peter McCluskey
Duration: 1:13

Last updated: January 25, 2012

Page consulted on December 12, 2014

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