This Day in History (23-Jun-1985) – Air India Boeing 747 ‘Kanishka’ Crashes into the Atlantic Ocean

Shortly after Operation Blue Star, members of the Khalistan movement in Canada gather people to avenge the attacks on the Golden Temple. On June 23rd 1985, a certain Manjit Singh turned up to check in for Canadian Pacific airlines flight from Vancouver to Toronto. He asked the check in agent to transfer his bags to Air India flight 181 and then to flight 182. Singh was never identified after check in and the Canadian Pacific airlines flight from Toronto to Montreal departed without him, but with his bag on the flight.

The Canadian Pacific airlines flight landed in Toronto and Singh’s bag were transferred to Air India’s flight 182. All bags were to be either X ray screened, or checked by hand. The break down of an X-ray machine that day led to security officials using PDD-4 explosive sniffer which made a loud scream if it detected an explosive. This device made a low beep when passed near a maroon suitcase with a zipper going all around. Since officials did not know what to do if the machine made a low beep, they let the bag go. A bomb exploded on board while the aircraft was at an altitude of 31,000 feet. All 329 on board the flight, including passengers and crew members, perished in this deadly air disaster. The accident proved to be the worst aviation disaster over sea. The culprit, as it was later detected, was a suitcase in the forward cargo hold which held explosives responsible for this disaster.

On the same day, a man by the name L. Singh in Vancouver checked in on a Canadian Pacific flight from Vancouver to Tokyo with one piece of luggage which was supposed to be transferred to Air India flight 301 to Bangkok. L. Singh was later never identified and never boarded the flight, though his bag went on the flight to Tokyo. About an hour after Kanishka crashed, a bomb went off in a bag at Tokyo’s Narita airport killing two baggage handlers and injuring four in the process. This bomb was intended for the Air India flight 301 from Tokyo to Bangkok, but exploded before it was loaded onto the aircraft. No Sikh extremist organisation claimed responsibility of either of the events.



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