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1985: The downing of 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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It's the third-worst air crash in history, and it has taken more Canadian lives than any aviation disaster before it. Of the 329 people on Air India Flight 182, 280 were Canadian. Eighty-six were children. At the crash site, on the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Ireland, the grim patrol for debris and survivors has begun. A CBC crew is aboard a British navy helicopter as searchers recover the body of a young boy.

The Air India 747 departed Toronto and Montreal, headed for London and then Bombay. As the plane was preparing for its descent, it disappeared from radar screens at 31,000 feet. Early indications are that a bomb caused the crash: two groups have claimed responsibility, and investigators are exploring a link to an explosion at Japan's Narita airport. And as CBC reporter Bill Casey learns, Air India had requested extra security before the crash.
• The bombers had planned for the explosion on Flight 182 to happen after the plane landed in London. However, the flight left Toronto an hour and 40 minutes late and was still in the air when the bomb detonated.

• Some passengers survived the explosion itself but died by drowning in the icy water. The bodies of 131 passengers -- 30 of them children -- were recovered from the crash site.

• The bomb on Flight 182 was in a suitcase that had been checked on a connecting flight in Vancouver by a man named M. Singh. He was not on the flight to Toronto, and his bag was transferred to Flight 182 even though he wasn't a confirmed passenger.

• The luggage carrying the Narita bomb, on Canadian Pacific Flight 003 to Tokyo, was checked in Vancouver by an L. Singh. It was destined for another Air India flight to Bangkok, but exploded and killed two baggage handlers.

• Even though security for Air India flights was beefed up before the bombing, an X-ray machine for scanning checked baggage was broken when the suspect bag went through.

• In July 1985, a Canadian Coast Guard ship named the John Cabot began mapping the wreckage on the ocean floor. A submersible craft carrying a video recorder was used to search for pieces of the aircraft, baggage and other debris. Some items were recovered to allow investigators a closer look.

• Over four months after the bombing, two Vancouver men, Talwinder Singh Parmar and Inderjit Singh Reyat, were charged with various weapons and explosives offences. They were also charged with conspiracy, although a link to Air India was never established in court. Charges against Parmar were dropped, but Reyat was convicted of weapons offences and fined $2,000.

• Reyat was tried and convicted of manslaughter in 1991 in the deaths of the two baggage handlers at Narita. Components used to make the bomb had been linked back to him. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison. In 2001, he was charged in the Air India bombing, but because he was a British citizen, authorities in the United Kingdom had to agree to the further charges. They had already extradited him to face charges in the Narita bombing.

• A 1991 settlement paid out $75,000 to families for each relative who died in the bombing.

• In October 2000, two men were charged with the murders of the 329 passengers on Flight 182 as well as the deaths of the baggage handlers. Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri were also accused of conspiracy to murder and attempted murder of the passengers and crew on CP Flight 003.

• Almost since it began, the police investigation has been mired in controversy. In March 1999, the RCMP had spent $26 million on the investigation. Soon after the trial got underway in February 2003, questions began to emerge about whether the bombing could have been prevented. Agents from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service had been spying on two suspects but failed to recognize the sound of a bomb being tested.
Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: June 23, 1985
Guest(s): Joe Clark, Francis Da Gama, Tim Keane, Don Mazankowski, Paul Redfern, Robert Stewart, Rodney Wallace
Host: Chris Henry
Reporter: Bill Casey, Peter McCluskey
Duration: 7:07

Last updated: November 4, 2014

Page consulted on November 4, 2014

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