Gander Crash In 1985
Remains A Huge Cover-Up
Families Get a Bunch of Lies From US
And Canadian Governments
Crash killing 248 passengers, mostly military, possibly tied to Iran-Contra covert affairs. Families of victims illegally wiretapped to keep truth from coming forward.
By Greg Szymanski
Zona Phillips remembers the Gander crash like it was yesterday.
But December 12, 2005, marked 20 years since she lost her son aboard an ill-fated DC-8 charter carrying 248 passengers when it crashed just after takeoff from Gander International Airport in Newfoundland, Canada.
Most of the passengers, like Phillips' son, were members of the 101stAirborne Division, who were assigned as a peace-keeping force in the Sinai Peninsula, enforcing the Camp David accords of 1978.
And the official story of the crash was a build-up of ice on the wings. But from the outset Phillips questioned the findings, saying the U.S.government, with complicity of Canadian officials, have been keeping the real truth from family members.
"From the beginning, the U.S. government blocked an investigation and cordoned off the crime scene and that was just the beginning of the incredible cover-up, leading me to believe they were involved," said Phillips this week in an extended phone conversation, as well as making her feelings known on Greg Szymanski's radio show, 'The Investigative Journal,' on the Republic Broadcasting Network at
Others who have also tried to get to the bottom of what really happened at Gander said the crash may not have been caused by ice, but by some type of sophisticated incendiary device placed on the airplane.
Although both the U.S. and Canadian governments have never wavered from the ice theory, critics contend all signs point to an explosion onboard the plane, a conclusion reached by the many unusual events taking place before takeoff as well as suspicious toxicology reports indicating officials are hiding the real cause to protect high level involvement.
"We have been given information that the government wants to keep the true cause of the crash unknown, because of the relationship between the military unit and covert operations taking place related to the Iran-Contra affair," said Phillips, who was the leader in forming coalition of family trying to get at the truth.
"What is our government really hiding? They have sealed all records and information concerning the flight for 70 years. I have been the victim of government surveillance and even have had my phone wiretapped."
Besides Phillips, Hank and Phyllis Gerdes, who also lost their son in the 1985 crash, suspect foul play, claiming the government cover-up indicates something other than ice on the wings caused their son' death.
"I have had to live with this tragedy every day for 20 years and when you realize you are being lied to, it makes it even more difficult," said Mrs. Gerdes.
Although family members still remain hopeful in getting at the truth, they are realistic that the "truth may never be told" since the trail of evidence and support for a renewed investigation has nearly faded out after 20 years.
"We are up against a giant bureaucracy with lots of money, resources and clout to keep the truth from being told," said Mr. Gerdes, adding larger events of misery, like 9/11, Oklahoma City and Hurricane Katrina have pushed the Gander crash to the back burner if not completely off the stove.
"Most Americans don't even know or remember what happened at Gander. And if they did, they feel as if they are helpless at doing anything about it anyway."
Although the truth about Gander may never be known, the evidence pointing to a government cover-up is another example in a long line of suspicious airplane accidents and other suspected terrorists events where the U.S. government frustrates an honest and forthright investigation into the causes, hiding behind what family members day is a false veil of national security.
Some of the more notable tragedies to occur during the same time frame of Gander include the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut and the hijacking of TWA flight 847 in June of 1985.
In February of 1984, the Multinational Force and Observer director, Leamon "Ray" Hunt was gunned down in his car in the streets of Rome, Italy. The official stories regarding all the incidents have also been seriously questioned similar to the Gander crash, critics pointing out covert U.S. military operations always seeming to be at the real underlying cause of the tragedies.
What led to suspicions about the Gander crash started after information surfaced that normal flight boarding procedures were seriously disregarded by U.S. officicials priot to the DC-8 departure.
In a close look at the Gander crash by Jamie Sandford, he details some of the more important pre-flight oddities:
"The unusual events begin to unfold further here, when the pilot of the plane noticed that the Egyptian guard stationed on the ground outside the aircraft would 'disappear from his post several times, sometimes for as long as an hour.'
"Captain Arthur Schoppaul also noted that the baggage workers got into a fist fight outside the aircraft, which struck him strangely since Arabs rarely touch one another due to religious beliefs. There was a time when there was no light around the aircraft due to a power cord that had been pulled out on the tarmac. During the loading, there were no U.S. personnel in the cargo holds supervising the contracted Egyptian workers, none of whom had been screened by the U.S. officials.
"When the cargo bays of the DC-8 were full, an interesting situation arose; there were still 41 of the soldiers' duffel bags that could not be loaded. Many of the bags were bumped off the plane due to several "large, wooden crates" that were loaded onto the plane first. An Arrow Air manager recalled that Lieut. Colonel Marvin Jeffcoat, the battalion commander, insisted that the boxes be loaded first, and if necessary, that duffel bags be removed to accommodate the boxes, as they contained 'very important, military material.'
"This struck many of the crew members oddly since it is 'unusual to separate a soldier from his equipment.' One of the 10 to 20 of these crates had not been transported on the baggage truck with the other baggage and boxes, but had been flown in the belly of one of the 737s to Cairo. Where was this box kept while the other baggage in the trucks was being guarded? Despite attempts to identify the contents of these boxes through Army records, no official records of the boxes, or their contents, have been found."
Sandford also calls attention to the may oddities of the post-crash investigation, as well as toxicology reports being hidden by the government. He also points out, as do family members including Phillips and Mr. and Mrs. Gerdes, the most disturbing part of the entire investigation is the complicity between the Canadian and U.S. government to keep the investigation a well-guarded secret.
In his detailed look at the crash investigation Sandford writes:
"The Arrow Air DC-8 departed from the terminal at 6:40 a.m. Gander local time, crashing six minutes later less than a half-mile from the end of runway 22. Army Major Gen. John Crosby arrived in Gander at 3:00 p.m. local time, along with Army personnel to assist the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in their investigative efforts.
"However, the Army's only role was to assist, and not investigate, at the scene of the accident; this would be done solely by the RCMP. Representatives from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the FBI were also dispatched to the site within hours of the crash.
"Many of the officials sent to the crash site were told that they had no jurisdiction there, as the crash did not take place on U.S. territory. In most accidents that involve U.S. citizens, officials probe further to uncover details. In this case, however, many of the officials accepted whatever theories were laid before them by the Canadian officials.
"The FBI officials were put up in a hotel room for several days, at which time they were informed about the RCMP's findings and told to go home. Information in hand, they departed, leaving a possible crime scene with only the information they were provided -- unprecedented for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Two separate eyewitnesses remember General Crosby ordering the "immediate bulldozing of the crash site.' Although General Crosby denies mentioning the bulldozing operation in December, records show that less than 10 days following the accident, Crosby was in touch with officials in Gander and Ottawa regarding the site cleanup, which was to be performed with 'a representative of the Army present at all times.'"
Sandford and other investigators added the immediate bulldozing of a crash site removed all traces of possible wrongdoing, adding more fuel to the fire of a government cover-up.
Although speculation exists as to the real cause for the cover-up, Sandford offered these following theories:
--The mysterious wooden boxes were the bodies of Special Forces soldiers killed in a hostage rescue attempt.
--A bomb, or some other incendiary device, was placed into the "B" cargo hold of the plane at one of its two stops before heading back to the U.S. The lax security would allow such an act to take place.
--The explosion onboard the aircraft did not cause it to explode in mid-air, but rather rendered it uncontrollable and caused a massive system failure before crashing.
--The Special Forces units on the aircraft were sent to rescue the hostages held in the Middle East. Oliver North realized that the hostages would probably be killed in retaliation for the bad shipment of HAWK missiles sent to Iran. He knew that he could face serious consequences for his actions if the hostages were harmed. The peace keeping agenda in the Sinai would provide an innocent platform from which to launch such an operation.
Greg Szymanski is an independent investigative journalist. For more outstanding stories go to



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