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Thirty-sixth anniversary of tragic explosion of Air India Flight off Irish coast

CORK: Today marks the 36th anniversary of the tragic explosion of Air India Flight 182, which killed 329 people, including Indian passengers.

On June 23, 1985, at 8.13 am, Air India Boeing 747-237B Flight 182 exploded just off the coast of Cork. The flight was blown up by a bomb at a height of 9,400 metres and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean while in Irish airspace.

The Canadian Parliament will observe a minute of silence today in memory of the tragedy.

Many of the victims’ relatives from India visit the small village of Ahakista in West Cork (nearest point of land to the crash site) every year.

Every year, remembrance ceremonies are held at the memorial garden in Cork and the sundial in Ahakista. Due to the pandemic, memorial services are being held online for the second year in a row.

The blast killed 22 Indians and more than 80 children

The plane was carrying 280 Canadians, 27 British nationals and 22 Indians. Most of the Canadian citizens were of Indian descent. More than 80 children were also on board.

The Irish Navy recovered 131 bodies from the sea, in what was considered one of the largest operations in Irish history. The L.É. AISLING navy ship, led by Lieutenant Commander James Robinson, was one of the first to arrive on the site.

Within 24 hours, the L.É. AISLING had recovered 38 bodies from the sharks’ clutches. Lt Cdr James Robinson, Petty Officer Seaman Mossie Mahon, Leading Seaman John Mc Grath and Able Seaman Terry Browne were awarded Distinguished Service Medals for their work. The RAF, the Royal Navy and several locals from Cork also assisted in the search and rescue operation.

The biggest terrorist attack in Irish history

The 1985 disaster is regarded as the largest terrorist attack on the Irish border. Flight 182 was en route from Toronto to Delhi. The plane, which had a stopover in London, disappeared from radar in Irish airspace. The cause of the accident was not immediately known but it was later confirmed to be a bomb blast.

Two people were arrested five months after the explosion. However, the case was registered only against Inderjit Singh Reyat, a Canadian citizen. In 2003, he pled guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 15 years in prison for his role in the building of the bombs that exploded aboard Flight 182 and at Japan’s Narita Airport.

In 2006, the Canadian Commission of Inquiry into the Air India Flight 182 bombing launched. The final report was released in 2010. It also found a series of errors that resulted in intelligence reports about possible terror threats. 

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