Aviation Investigation Report A98H0003

1.18.9  Witness Information

  1. 1.18.9.1 - General
  2. 1.18.9.2 - Witness Interviewing Methodology
  3. 1.18.9.3 - Summary of Ear and Eye Witness Information

1.18.9.1  General (STI1-120)

Immediately after the occurrence, the RCMP Major Crimes Unit (MCU) dispatched four teams of investigators into the area surrounding the occurrence site. TSB investigators worked closely with the RCMP MCU to obtain information from witnesses who heard or saw the aircraft prior to the time of impact.

1.18.9.2  Witness Interviewing Methodology

TSB and RCMP investigators interviewed more than 200 potential ear and eye witnesses and took 88 separate statements related to the event. TSB investigators reviewed the preliminary statements taken by the RCMP and conducted their own interviews with witnesses who had said that they saw the aircraft during the latter portion of its flight. The majority of the ear and eye witnesses were in the areas of Blandford, East Ironbound Island, Tancook Islands, Indian Harbour, and Peggy's Cove. No witnesses saw the aircraft's impact with the water.

Additional interviews were conducted by law enforcement and safety investigators with personnel, based in New York, whose job functions were related to the security, pre-flight preparation, and dispatch of the occurrence aircraft. TSB and RCMP investigators also interviewed personnel at the involved companies in Zurich.

1.18.9.3  Summary of Ear and Eye Witness Information

Investigators collected information from 72 witnesses who said that they saw or heard the occurrence aircraft during the final minutes of its flight. All witnesses indicated that the aircraft was flying at normal flight attitudes, characterized by gentle banked turns and level or shallow pitch attitudes. Numerous witnesses recalled the loud sound of the aircraft engines.

Several witnesses reported seeing white, red, and green lights illuminated on the exterior of the aircraft. The white light was generally reported to be fixed (not flashing) and more brilliant than the coloured lights, which were flashing. One witness reported seeing blue flames on the left side of the aircraft, forward of the left wing.

Four witnesses reported smelling fuel, kerosene, or oil after the aircraft passed overhead. Three additional witnesses reported feeling moisture falling from the sky after the aircraft passed overhead. One witness at St. Margaret's Bay and a second witness at Blandford described a wedge or triangular-shaped haze trailing behind the aircraft. Line-of-sight estimates from eye witnesses suggest that the aircraft passed over the Blandford/Bayswater area at an altitude of between 2 000 and 5 000 feet agl.

There were no witnesses of the final descent of the aircraft into the water, nor were there any reports of a post-crash fire. Several witnesses recalled hearing a final sound that was similar to a clap of thunder. The sound was of short duration and high intensity, and was followed by silence. The time of the final sound was reported to be at approximately 1030 Atlantic daylight time (0130 UTC).

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Date modified :
2012-07-27