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Relatives angered by film about Swissair crash

Victims relatives gather near Peggy's Cove to mark the first anniversary of the crash

(Keystone)

A Canadian television channel - CTV - has caused outrage by broadcasting a fictional film based on the Swissair flight 111 disaster in which all 229 people on board were killed just over two years ago.

Relatives of the victims said they were disappointed and dismayed by the way their personal tragedy had been turned into fiction.

Ian Shaw, who left Switzerland for Canada last year, lost his 23-year-old daughter in the crash. He described the film as "tawdry, exploitative and superficial. We don't need reminders [of the tragedy], we have memories, and this appalling film was an unwelcome reminder to us."

Bill Mustos, CTV's vice president of dramatic programming, defended the station's handling of the film, describing it as "a story of loss, courage and healing, which the filmmakers have dealt with in a sensitive and courageous way".

"Blessed Stranger" is a fictional account of a friendship which develops between a local fisherman and a wealthy American woman, whose teenage daughter was one of the victims of the crash off the coast of Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Among those opposed to the film were inhabitants of Peggy's Cove, the small Nova Scotia village which was the base of rescue operations shortly after the plane went down. Pressure from residents during filming last summer forced the CTV crew to shoot scenes in another bay along the coast.

Alison Auld, a reporter for the Canadian Press, who saw the film, said she thought it was fairly accurate, but added that the residents of Peggy's Cove felt that the film sensationalised the tragedy and didn't portray the strength or dignity shown by the town's people.

Swissair and the Canadian authorities are still trying to determine the cause of the crash.

The film has not yet been seen by officials at Swissair headquarters near Zurich, but a spokesman there told swissinfo: "As long as we don't know what really happened it is not worth making a film about what might have happened. It's pure speculation."

swissinfo with agencies

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