Burial services for Swissair Flight 111 victims

(Reuters) -- Hundreds of relatives and friends of the 229 people killed in the crash of Swissair Flight 111 gathered for solemn burial services under a brilliant blue sky at a memorial site near this Canadian Atlantic coast hamlet.

This content was published on September 2, 1999 - 08:48

(Reuters) -- Hundreds of relatives and friends of the 229 people killed in the crash of Swissair Flight 111 gathered for solemn burial services under a brilliant blue sky at a memorial site near this Canadian Atlantic coast hamlet.

The victims died when the passenger jet plunged into the Atlantic Ocean a year ago.

An estimated 650 mourners, many carrying wreaths or flowers, attended the mid-morning memorial in Bayswater before three bronze coffins containing the remains of some of those who died in the September 2, 1998, crash.

The coffins were carried by pallbearers made up of Canadian search and rescue professionals.

The coffins joined 24 others buried at the site marked by a smooth granite wall engraved with the names of 227 people who died when the Swissair MD-11 plunged into the ocean about 11 km (6.8 miles) away. The relatives of two victims
requested that their names be left off the memorial.

The private burials were closed to the media and public, but officials said government representatives and search and rescue workers who aided in recovery efforts after the crash also participated in the dedication.

Community volunteers, such as fishermen who were among the first people to reach the crash site, also attended.

The Canadian Navy held a separate memorial ceremony at the ocean crash site itself aboard the frigate MHS Ville de Quebec, which played a key role in the search and recovery after the crash.

Sailors on the Ville de Quebec dropped a wreath into the water at the spot where the airliner went down.

The monument at Bayswater was one of two dedicated on Wednesday. Overlooking St. Margaret's Bay, the memorial features a smooth granite wall inscribed with the 227 names.

A granite wall to the right of the monument has three large fin-like slabs lined up in a row to refer to Flight 111.

Another monument, a massive granite rock split in two and featuring three notches as a symbolic reminder of Flight 111, was unveiled at nearby Whalesback.

"Fate has ordained that we gather today to dedicate this memorial. I hereby do so in memory of the passengers and crew of Swissair Flight 111 and in recognition of all those who provided assistance and comfort in so many ways," said Nova Scotia Premier John Hamm during Whalesback ceremony.

Peggy Coburn, an American whose husband Richard died in the crash, thanked the Nova Scotians for their help and emotional support.

"You have given me the greatest gift that will last forever. If I need strength or comfort, all I have to do is remember you and I will be comforted," she said.

The monuments at Bayswater and Whalesback are at two corners of a triangle whose apex is the crash site offshore from the picturesque fishing village of Peggy's Cove.

The Swissair MD-11 crashed into the ocean on a night flight from New York to Geneva, Switzerland. The crash remains under investigation, but the inquiry is focusing on an apparent fire in the cockpit that may have been caused in part by faulty wiring.

In Peggy's Cove, Murielle Provost, head of the Canadian Red Cross disaster relief team during the days just after the crash, said she hoped to meet some of the family members she had counselled a year earlier.

Provost told CBC television that the memorial events planned for Wednesday and Thursday were emotionally charged for her.

"It is a little more difficult than I anticipated," she said tearfully, adding that her husband and close friends have helped her cope with the tragedy.

Crash victims' friends and family came to the memorials from New York, Zurich, Geneva and Paris on special Swissair flights.

On the actual anniversary of the crash on Thursday, a public memorial will be held at Halifax's convention centre, followed by an interfaith candlelight ceremony at the fortress on Citadel Hill overlooking the port city.

Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien and Swiss President Ruth Dreifuss are
expected to attend Thursday's events.

Memorial concerts are planned on Friday in Geneva and Paris, while a service for relatives of the 15 Swissair crew members who perished will be held in Zurich.

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