Mayday (2013) s05e07 Episode Script

Explosive Evidence

NARRATOR: Early morning, June 23, 1985.
A 747 flies across the Atlantic Ocean, 9.
5km above the water.
The jumbo jet is nicknamed 'Kanishka' after an Indian emperor, and Air India promises passengers it will be 'a palace in the sky'.
WOMAN: Indian hospitality is something that the culture prides itself on.
And you do experience that when you fly Air India.
The colours are rich and warm inside.
It's your gateway to India.
On its way from Canada, the plane is heading to London, England, before continuing on to New Delhi.
It's been in the air for 4.
5 hours.
Captain Hanse Narendra is a veteran Air India pilot.
Satwinder Bhinder is a captain too, who's serving as first officer on the flight.
As the plane nears land, Bhinder talks with the flight's purser.
(PHONE RINGS) - Yes, sir? - Dinshaw.
Do me a small favour.
At the back of the plane, seat 54, a boy is sitting there.
He just wanted to have a look at the cockpit.
- Can I send him now? - After about 15 to 20 minutes.
There are 329 people on board, including passengers and crew.
Many of them are flying to India to visit family or friends.
Vishnu Pada is travelling to India with his two daughters.
Their mother, Lata, is already waiting for them there.
We had decided that it would be the ideal year to take an extended vacation in India as a family.
Six minutes after 8:00 in the morning, co-pilot Bhinder makes radio contact with Air Traffic Control in Ireland.
Shanwick, Air India 182.
Good morning.
Station calling Shannon.
Go ahead again, please.
Thomas Lane and Michael Quinn are working at the Shannon control centre.
Air India 182 is 5.
1 north, 1.
5 west at level 310.
Estimate FIR at 0735.
Air India 182, Shannon, roger.
Cleared for London.
Flight level 310.
Air India 182 is clear to London.
Maintain 310.
- Do you want to come up front now? - Yeah.
OK.
(LAUGHS) Let's go.
It's a light morning at Shannon control.
They're dealing with just three planes.
But something peculiar has happened.
The signals are all jumbled up.
The signals unread or merged so that it was totally impossible to read the call signs and flight levels of any of the three aircraft.
The Air India 747 is flying at 31,000 feet.
A TWA jet is several thousand feet above it.
And a CP flight is 2,000 feet higher.
All are travelling east.
Because the planes are stacked on top of each other, the signals have merged on the controllers' two-dimensional screen.
QUINN: Tom moved the tracker ball on radar and separated the signals.
Two of the the planes reappear on the radar.
But the Air India flight has vanished.
Air India's not showing up.
Hold on a minute.
Air India 182, do you read? Air India 182.
This is Shannon.
Do you read? Over.
It's 8:14 in the morning.
I had a gut feeling.
To this day, I don't know why I picked up the phone.
Yes, it's Michael Quinn at Shannon.
We have a plane off-radar.
Normally, a distress call to search and rescue isn't made until a plane has been out of contact for more than 20 minutes.
The Air India flight has been missing less than 60 seconds.
Several ships in the area begin searching for signs of the plane.
Its last-known position is some 290km south-west of Cork.
Just two hours after the plane disappears, a Canadian-owned cargo ship in the area confirms the worst.
The first pieces of wreckage are discovered.
Uninflated life rafts are spotted bobbing in the cold Atlantic.
Then bodies are seen.
It's quickly clear that no-one has survived.
In India, Lata Pada is waiting for her husband and two children to arrive, when she hears the news from her brother.
He sat me down and told me that, you know, something terrible had happened.
I was justin total shock and You know, part of me was trying to digest the information and part of me was trying to imagine if indeed the worst had happened, how I was going to continue my life without them.
Dozens of bodies arrive in Cork.
Many more will follow.
Now investigators are faced with the enormous task of finding out how they died, and what had caused the crash of Air India Flight 182.
(SIRENS WAIL) On June 23, 1985, a gruesome cargo begins arriving at the city's docks.
Just hours after Air India Flight 182 crashes into the sea, bodies and wreckage are brought in by boat.
Dr Cuimin Doyle is a pathologist at the Cork Regional Hospital.
The first bodies arrived at 4:45pm on that Sunday afternoon, and at 12 midnight, we had 130 bodies.
Doyle and his team will examine the bodies to see if they can find any signs of what caused the crash.
It's an enormous undertaking for everybody involved - the hospital personnel, the police, the navy, the army and pathologists like ourselves.
But we just had to get on and do the job.
There are so many autopsies to perform that Doyle moves the work into the building's gym.
We had three police people working on each body - photographer, a ballistics expert and a forensic odontologist.
That is a person who examines the teeth, the face for identification purposes.
In just four days, autopsies are performed on 132 victims.
All parts of the body were examined externally in detail and every detail was noted down.
We were looking, of course, for the causes of the fatalities.
Doyle makes a telling discovery.
Almost all the victims died in the air.
Only two of the bodies showed signs of drowning, which indicated that the others were not breathing when they hit the water.
There's something else that's common to many of the victims.
A large number have had their clothes torn off.
Now, that was important, because if they had no clothes or little clothes, this indicated that they had fallen from 31,000 feet or so where this accident occurred.
Some of the bodies also have signs of so-called 'flail injuries'.
These are breaks specific to bones in the hips, shoulders and other joints.
H.
S.
Khola is the lead investigator into the Air India disaster.
The flail injuries tell him the passengers weren't in the plane when it hit the ocean.
KHOLA: They are caused by tumbling.
Violent motion of the body in air.
That is the pattern of the injuries when a passenger is thrown out of the aircraft at high altitude.
The autopsies show that somehow the plane had been ripped apart high above the water.
Passengers were thrown into the sky long before the plane crashed.
DOYLE: Based on the injuries, we could only say that the plane had broken up at 31,000 feet.
We couldn't say what the cause of the break-up was.
The most important job of the investigators is to try to find the plane's black boxes.
The two devices record cockpit conversation and other technical information about the flight of the plane.
The recorders have radio beacons which send out a signal at a designated frequency.
But it's still a huge task.
The boxes are more than 6,500 feet below the surface.
And the radio signals last just 30 days.
Salim Jiwa is a journalist who has investigated the Air India disaster.
The search for the black boxes was urgent and three countries participated in it - England, Ireland and India.
But even with such a massive response, early efforts are frustrated.
42 kilohertz.
It's too high.
It can't be them.
Investigators are picking up radio signals but they're at the wrong frequency.
As the search continues, H.
S.
Khola and his team study the maintenance history of the plane.
They want to know if an undetected flaw had caused the jet to come apart in flight.
They uncover a potentially important piece of information.
The Air India jet was flying with five engines.
A 747 normally has four engines, but it can carry more.
The plane was designed so that it could transport a malfunctioning engine beneath its wings.
Ground crews can mount the engine to a bracket on the plane.
It's exactly what happened to the Air India jet.
There was an extra engine that a previous flight had left behind that was mounted on the wing of the aircraft.
The extra engine creates substantial drag on the left side of the plane.
If the pilots don't properly compensate, the plane will start turning in that direction.
Investigators also learn that some internal parts of the extra engine were taken out and stored in Flight 182's cargo bay.
They are so enormous that pieces of the cargo door were removed to make the job easier.
Some of the other parts of the engine went into the rear of the aircraft.
Aircraft such as a 747 can handle this quite easily.
It's routinely done.
But if the cargo door wasn't reassembled properly, it could have led to an explosive decompression.
In 1974, a cargo door blew off a Turkish Airlines flight shortly after it took off from Paris.
The sudden decompression crippled the plane.
It crashed moments later, killing everyone on board.
Khola must consider two theories - either problems with the door or with the extra engine itself brought down the plane.
If either one had taken place, there should be evidence on the plane's black boxes.
Finding the recorders has become increasingly important.
Investigators from India are scouring the ocean floor trying to find out why Air India Flight 182 fell from the sky.
Almost two weeks after the search begins, investigators get news that helps them pinpoint the location of the black boxes.
The signal will be higher.
So this 42 kilohertz could be it.
Tell the boats to look again.
The piece of the black box which broadcasts the locator signal is made of ceramic.
If it's damaged, the frequency of the signal can change.
It means the strange frequency ships detected earlier could be the right one.
Both the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder are finally located but they're so deep, it's difficult to bring them up.
The aircraft was at 6,000 feet below the sea and it was the depth that was sort of defeating.
A deep-sea submersible is brought in but even with this specialised vehicle and with the location of the black boxes known, it takes four attempts to bring the recorders to the surface.
BHINDER: (ON RECORDING) Estimate FIR at 0735.
QUINN: (ON RECORDING) Air India 102, Shannon.
Roger.
Cleared for Lead investigator Khola now has what he hopes are two vital pieces of the puzzle.
If there's any problem in the aircraft, the crew will be talking about the problem.
They will not be silent about the problem.
But when he listens to the cockpit voice recorder, Khola hears nothing unusual.
After the last contact with air traffic control in Shannon, the voice recorder picks up the crew talking about Customs seals.
It's paperwork that has to be completed before landing.
They want about 30 Customs seals.
Customs? Yeah, Customs seals, to seal the bar before its arrival, but I (STATIC) The conversation ends in midsentence.
That was it, and then everything was, of course, silent.
KHOLA: The cockpit voice recorder indicated that there was no abnormality in the cockpit.
No emergency.
Every conversation was normal.
The plane's flight data recorder tells a similar story.
Khola pores through details about Air India's speed, altitude and dozens of other pieces of information.
The extra engine did cause the plane to bank slightly and the jet's rudder was turned 11 degrees to the right but this was exactly what the crew needed to do to offset the drag created by the fifth engine.
We found that all parameters of the aircraft - aircraft altitude, aircraft heading, aircraft bank attitude, roll attitude, autopilot engaged - everything was working normally till the last point.
After analysing both black boxes, Khola can't find any evidence that the plane was in trouble before it suddenly disappeared from radar.
But the very lack of evidence does suggest something.
Both recorders get their power from the plane's engines.
Both stopped at exactly 14 minutes and 1 second after 8:00 in the morning.
Since the recorders stopped working at the same time, the problem on the plane had to be catastrophic enough to sever the jet's electronic system before the crew could react.
We had to go to the cause of the accident.
We had to go to the wreckage which was lying at the bottom of the sea.
But what parts of the plane should investigators focus on? The black boxes were equipped with radio transmitters which made them easier to find.
But the debris field is deep under water, and enormous - some 16km long and 6km across.
How do investigators identify the one clue that will help them unlock the mystery? Roy Truman is an underwater salvage expert.
He's brought in to do something that's never been done before - retrieve the ruined pieces of a jumbo jet from the bottom of the ocean.
In hundreds of thousands of pieces, he needs to find the ones that will explain why the plane crashed.
Up until that time, we had only been used with recovering small aircraft.
Here we're talking about a 747, which was huge and we had no idea of the size of the pieces and what we were going to find.
Investigators know they can't bring the entire wreck to the surface.
It's so deep, it takes hours to recover a single piece.
The submersible takes underwater video and still photos.
Investigators use those to decide which pieces to bring to the surface.
It was a narrow corridor and at each end of the corridor it was very light wreckage.
All of the heavy stuff - engines, main aircraft structure - was in the middle of the wreckage field.
Like searching for a needle in an underwater haystack, investigators hoped to discover the cause of the crash in a tangle of ruined metal.
But autumn is coming.
Soon the weather will turn bad and they'll have to abandon their search.
The key to unlocking the disaster still lies somewhere at the bottom of ocean.
Investigators from India are scouring the ocean floor trying to find out why Air India Flight 182 fell from the sky.
As the work continues in Ireland, there's growing suspicion in Canada that the Air India crash was no accident.
As police and investigators sift through the list of passengers on the plane, they find something peculiar.
Many of the passengers who were on Air India Flight 182 began their day in Vancouver.
They were using another plane to connect to Flight 182.
One of the passengers who bought a ticket for that plane never got on.
Well, the passenger, we have never identified him per se, but the ticket identified him as 'M.
Singh'.
It simply had an initial but no full name.
We believe that name to be fictitious and that the person never intended to travel.
While he never boarded the plane, M.
Singh did check in.
Tickets, please.
On your way to Toronto? And I want my bag checked through to Delhi.
Sir, I can't do that.
Your reservation is only confirmed to Toronto.
Oh, I am confirmed.
THIS is my ticket.
Jeannie Adams is a ticket agent working for Canadian Pacific.
Mr Singh, you're on stand-by to Delhi.
I can't.
But then I have to pick up my bag.
I can't check your bags through to India if you're not confirmed.
But I am indeed confirmed! Wait.
I'll get my brother.
He'll tell you.
There are as many as 30 people waiting to check in.
Adams doesn't have time to wait for the man's brother.
(STAMMERS) Uhw OK, OK, OK.
I'll check it through but you have to check with Air India when you get to Toronto.
Your seat is 10B.
Even though Singh doesn't have a ticket taking him to India, his bag is checked straight through.
His luggage is loaded but no-one notices that Singh never boards the plane that leaves Vancouver.
MAN: She broke the rules.
As they were, she should not have allowed that to go through for New Delhi interline but she was so bullied and so browbeaten by Mr Singh in front of everybody else, that I think, to her eternal sadness and heartbreak, she gave in.
Singh's maroon bag didn't raise any concerns when it was loaded in Vancouver.
Since the Air India flight was international, when the bag arrived in Toronto, it faced a more strict series of inspections.
This is what it will sounds like.
(DEVICE BEEPS STEADILY) John D'Souza is a security officer for Air India.
The day of the flight, he demonstrated a portable explosives detector for baggage handlers in Toronto.
Chemicals in a match triggered the device as would chemicals used in some explosives.
OK? The portable device was put to use because the X-ray machine, which normally scans every piece of luggage, had broken down.
As security workers used the portable explosives wand on the bags, everything seemed normal until they got to the maroon bag.
(DETECTOR BEEPS ERRATICALLY) The bag did trigger the device but the sound it made was very different from the one workers heard during the demonstration.
The bag was passed and allowed onboard the plane, eventually flying towards England.
With the apparent connection between the two incidents, investigators in Ireland are extremely interested in what police find in Tokyo.
Soon after the bombing, forensic experts descend on Japan's Narita Airport.
There are traces of evidence everywhere.
JIWA: The Narita bombing was within a confined space.
So, unlike the Air India Flight 182 situation, where we had debris scattered over nine miles of under the ocean and pretty hard to retrieve, we had, in a sense, the good fortune of a contained area where an explosive device went off.
Pieces of metal and circuit boards are embedded in the walls.
Explosive residue clings to parts of the container that housed the bomb.
Amazingly, Japanese forensic experts were able to pick out tiny parts and fragments.
And all the analysis finally led the Japanese police to identify the vehicle that was used to carry the bomb.
Experts even find serial numbers on pieces of the wreckage .
.
clues that show the bomb was hidden inside a specific stereo tuner made by Sanyo.
All 2,000 tuners that were ever made were shipped to a warehouse near Vancouver, British Columbia.
From there, they were sent to stores across the region.
One of those tuners carried the bomb that exploded at Narita.
Police have a difficult task trying to trace the sale of 2,000 tuners.
They could have been sold to anyone.
Most of the stores that had received the tuner had been sold out for years.
But police get a break when they ask about the tuner at a store in Duncan, a tiny town on Vancouver Island.
The last unit had been sold just a few weeks ago.
They were able to figure out who bought the stereo tuner which contained the bomb.
Police obtain the same sort of tuner that was used to house the bomb on Air India.
They conduct tests to see how big the bomb would have to be to create the sort of damage that was found in Tokyo.
There was a progressive experimentation using dynamite .
.
to find out the extent of damage particular strengths of dynamite would cause.
They matched the size of the tuner fragments made after each explosion with the fragments that were found at Narita.
They discover that just a few sticks of dynamite were likely used in the Tokyo bomb.
But could just four sticks of dynamite really bring down a jet? Once they discover just how powerful the Narita bomb was, police place it into a fully loaded luggage container.
The devastation is enormous.
Any decompression caused by any vent or an explosive device in the luggage hold would be sufficient to cause catastrophic results for that aircraft.
You don't need much.
Four sticks of dynamite can do the job.
The cramped quarters of a cargo hold amplify the power of a bomb.
Tests conducted at Penn State University show that the shockwaves created from a bomb blast don't travel in just one direction, but reverberate inside a luggage container, building on each other, vastly increasing the initial force of the explosion.
If a bomb had indeed exploded in the cargo hold of Air India, it would have caused enormous amounts of destruction.
Knowing his time is running out, Khola selects a few key pieces of the plane to bring to the surface.
Bad weather forces him to leave the rest behind.
Khola hopes the bits he does have can prove there was a bomb on board.
Each piece that's brought up is carefully mapped to its original position on the jet.
One of the most promising sections brought up from the bottom is the floor of the front cargo bay.
KHOLA: When we recovered that item, we found that it had holes which are of a very special nature - penetration from inside to outside at a very high speed, curling of the edges of that one.
And that was indicative of that perhaps this is the place where the explosion had occurred.
As many as 20 holes are found.
In each, the metal is bent outward, like the petals of a flower.
These are classic signs of something being blown out from the cargo bay.
On the side wall of the cargo bay, investigators find more clues.
Additional holes are discovered, like the ones on the floor.
These also appear to have been blown out from the cargo hold.
A closer study of the ceiling of the cargo bay also indicates that the ribs connecting it to the fuselage were broken by being forced up.
Investigators are convinced that the wreckage shows that a bomb had exploded in the forward cargo hold.
If the bomb had gone off in the front of the plane, it would explain why the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder cut off so quickly.
Like other 747s, the electronics bay on the Air India flight is located below the cockpit.
Many of the important electrical systems on the plane run through here.
The forward luggage compartment is right beside it.
And so, when the bomb went off, the explosion would've taken out the computers completely, and there would've been absolutely dead silence.
And that's precisely what happened.
Investigators are convinced that Air India Flight 182 has been destroyed by a bomb.
This was no accident.
The crash of the passenger jet was a crime.
Nobody - nobody - thought that such an evil plot of blowing two aircrafts simultaneously would occur from Vancouver.
Exhaustive detective work creates a clear picture of what likely happened onboard the Air India jet.
In Toronto, M.
Singh's bag is taken off the Vancouver flight and moved onto the Air India jet.
It's put into a luggage container that's eventually placed at the front of the jet .
.
right behind the plane's electronics bay.
As the plane sailed over the Atlantic Ocean, the crew had no warning that a bomb was ticking down to disaster.
They want about 30 Customs seals.
- Customs? - Yeah, Customs seals.
To seal the bar before its arrival.
When the force of the blast hit the floor of the jet, it pushed it violently upwards.
The thin fuselage would have been blown apart.
The air pressure inside the plane would have rushed out, tearing passengers from the cabin and fatally crippling the jet.
The debris, scattered over nine miles, is an indication of how rapidly and how fearsome this whole decompression was.
But in this instance, the aircraft completely didn't stand a chance of flight.
There was no way of continuing flight in this case.
As the jet fell towards the sea, the forces put on the fuselage tore it apart.
It would have its tail torn off, and the wings would start breaking.
And there's no way of sustaining flight after that.
It goes into gyrations.
Once it goes into gyrations, there was just massive structural failure.
As the hunt for the killers continues, extraordinary steps are taken to tighten security and to see if jets can be made to withstand the force of a bomb.
It's May, 1997, more than 10 years after a terrorist bomb destroyed Air India Flight 182.
An out-of-service 747 is about to take part in a remarkable test.
Two bombs are placed in the front cargo bay.
Two more are put in the back.
The Bruntingthorpe test was actually intended to prove five years worth of research - that we can protect an airplane using hardened luggage containers or hardened liners in the cargo hold.
The plane is also pressurised, to simulate the conditions a jet would encounter at cruising altitude.
Pressurisation is the key to that kind of experiment.
The added energy that you have from the pressurisation inside the airplane adds to the damage.
You can think of it as a balloon - if you take a pin and put it in a balloon that's uninflated, you get just a simple hole the size of the pin.
However, if you blow that balloon up and you hit it with a pin, it pops catastrophically.
When the bombs are detonated .
.
the result is devastating.
The force of the blast, plus the pressure inside the jet, just tore the plane apart.
And that's the closest we can come to seeing what would've happened to a jet in flight.
The destructive power of bombs on jets is well known.
But what the tests at Bruntingthorpe showed was that relatively simple measures can substantially minimise the damage caused by an explosion.
One of the bombs in the rear cargo hold was placed in a normal luggage container.
But the bombs in the front cargo hold were different.
One was placed in a specialised container strengthened with a material similar to that found in bulletproof vests.
The other was put in a normal container, but placed beside walls that had been reinforced with a blast-absorbing liner.
When the bombs explode, the front of the plane is virtually untouched.
We had no breach of the airplane skin with the liner, or with the hardened luggage containers.
But towards the rear of the airplane, or the tail, where we didn't have any of the hardened materials, it was a catastrophic failure for the airplane.
The standard luggage container did nothing to minimise the blast.
Both the protective lining in the front cargo bay and the hardened luggage container were able to absorb the force of the explosion.
It's only speculation.
Would steps like these have saved Air India? Very likely.
Would they make the industry safer today? Absolutely.
One of the most difficult pieces of news for the families to accept .
.
was the many ways in which this tragedy could have been prevented.
I mean, it was absolutely unforgivable that a bag could be interlined to another destination without a passenger accompanying it.
In the Air India case, police eventually traced the bombing to Sikh extremists living in Canada.
They're fighting to have an independent Sikh homeland created in India.
The man who confessed to assembling the bomb is sent to prison.
The man suspected of masterminding the plot is killed several years later while under arrest in India.
Both men had deep ties to Canada's west-coast Sikh community.
It's a connection that still bothers Lata Pada.
It was a deliberate act of terrorism.
And it hurts even more that they were executed by Canadians, on Canadian soil, against Canadians.
More than 20 years after the destruction of the Air India flight, the shock of the day is still fresh.
And many questions remain unanswered.
We still don't know who the two people were who checked in the bags.
Apart from the basics of who made the bomb, we don't know much about who else assisted them.
We don't know who picked up those tickets.
There's a vow of silence that has hindered the investigation.
This inquiry will be launched immediately.
In 2006, the Canadian government launched an inquiry into the Air India bombing - another investigation of what happened and why.
The shocking death of so many is a continuing source of anger and disbelief.
No matter what the inquiry finds, the sobering facts are the same - 329 people killed in an instant.
There are memorials now in Ireland and Canada, mourning the victims of the Air India crash .
.
marking the day a terrorist bomb ripped through the lives of so many.
It's just so tragic about all our lives that we lead.
Every day is an ordinary day in our lives.
But some days, unexpectedly, something completely, totally unexpected shatters your life.
And that was one of those moments.