Inquiry Seen Blaming Bomb for Air-India Crash
India’s official inquiry into an Air-India plane crash in the Atlantic off Ireland last June has found that it was caused by a bomb in the aircraft’s forward cargo hold, the Press Trust of India reported Thursday.
The news agency quoted sources close to the Civil Aviation Ministry as saying that the 200-page report upholds a theory of the Indian government that a bomb blast caused the Boeing 747 to break up in mid-air, killing all 329 people on board.
Press Trust quoted the report as saying that the bomb exploded at an altitude of 31,000 feet when the plane was over the Atlantic Ocean south of the Irish coast.
Two militant Sikh organizations claimed responsibility.
Jagdish Tytler, minister of state for civil aviation, told Parliament on Thursday that he has received a copy of the report from Judge Bhupinder Nath Kirpal of the Delhi High Court, who headed the inquiry.
A government report submitted to Kirpal earlier this month said the bomb was in the baggage of a man named M. Singh. The baggage was put on the jumbo jet at Toronto airport, although Singh was not on board and did not have a confirmed reservation for the flight, the government’s report said.
The report added that Singh had checked his baggage at Vancouver for a Canadian Pacific flight to Toronto, then onwards to Bombay on a linking Air-India flight.
Its conclusion that the crash was caused by “detonation of an explosive device in the forward cargo compartment of the aircraft” matched evidence by British, U.S. and Indian experts at the inquiry hearings.
Press Trust of India said that the inquiry held 14 hearings and examined about 4,000 photographs and more than 50 videotapes of the aircraft’s wreckage.
It quoted Judge Kirpal as saying that he could not divulge his findings. “It is now up to the government to accept it and make it public,” he added.
Five scientists from the Bhabha Atomic Research Center in Bombay said in a report quoted by Press Trust last month that holes and other features in wreckage salvaged from the Atlantic seabed were probably caused by shock waves and fragments breaking up at high speed after the explosion.
The scientists said there was no evidence of any fatigue failure on any part of the wreckage examined.