Crash killing 248 passengers, mostly military, possibly tied to Iran-Contra
covert affairs. Families of victims illegally wiretapped to keep truth from
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 101st Airborne
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
“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 www.rbnlive.com.
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 20 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
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
“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
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
“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
“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
--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.