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Canada Judge Rejects New Gander Crash Probe

July 22, 1989|From Associated Press

OTTAWA — A judge who reviewed the official investigation of the 1985 air crash in Newfoundland that killed 256 Americans said Friday that the probe did not find the cause, but reopening it would produce "the same lonely result."

Willard Estey, a retired Supreme Court justice, said the evidence does not support the conclusions in the report of the Canadian Aviation Safety Board about what caused the disaster. The investigation took three years to complete.

The crash of a chartered Arrow Air DC-8 at Gander International Airport killed all 248 U.S. soldiers returning from peacekeeping duty in the Middle East and the eight U.S. crew members.

Estey said it would be "unproductive and sad" to reopen the investigation nearly four years after Canada's worst aviation disaster.

"You'll have the same lonely result," he said at a news conference at which his review was released. Estey noted that no one survived the crash while fire consumed most of the physical evidence.

His review found insufficient evidence for the majority conclusion--that ice on the wings was a probable cause--and even less for the minority view that an explosion or fire occurred before the crash.

Five of the safety board's nine members approved the majority report, released last December, and four signed the minority report.

"There is nothing in the evidence or the material assembled by the board or in any of the studies prepared by or for the board which would indicate that any further inquiry into this accident almost four years later would determine the cause or causes with any greater certainty," Estey added.

He found evidence for some conclusions reached by the majority, but none for the ultimate one about the cause. He added in his review: "There is almost no evidence which supports any of the conclusions of the minority."

Noting references throughout the report to possible terrorist involvement, Estey's review said: "Surmise and speculation inside and outside these proceedings abound, factual evidence does not. Nothing indicates any hope of uncovering explanations of this accident in those areas."

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