From 31st October, Sri Lanka Navy to begin salvaging underwater wreckage of Lionair flight
Sri Lanka Navy to begin on 31st of this month, the salvaging operation of the underwater wreckage of Lionair flight, that was found near the Iranativu island, north of Mannar.
The Navy Spokesman Comm. Kosala Warnakulasuriya said that the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) officials investigating the plane crash, have requested Sri Lanka Navy to salvage the underwater wreckage of the Lionair flight.
Comm. Kosala Warnakulasuriya speaking to Asian Tribune said that to begin the salvage operation on 31st October, it solely depends on the sea condition. He said at present the sea is very rough and diving operation cannot be done if the sea conditions remain the same.
The Lionair 602 which took off with 48 passengers, six crew members and two Ukranian pilots, from the Palali airport to Ratmalana, on September 29, 1998, went missing from the radar screen after 10 minutes.
Until April this year, when the TID officers apprehended a LTTE suspect who confessed to shooting down the airplane with a shoulder held missile, the disappearance of the plane remained a mystery.
Sivasubramaniam Thillaraj of the LTTE, confessed that an LTTE leader had ordered the shooting down, even though they were aware that it was carrying Tamil civilian passengers to Colombo.
The suspect in custody had identified the person who ordered the aircraft shooting down as one Gadafi, a close associate of LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran. Gadafi was killed during the final phase of fighting on the Vanni east front in early 2009.
Earlier, in the beginning of October, according to reports, security sources said that based on information provided by an LTTE cadre, a Navy diving team located the wreckage on the sea bed off Iranativu Island.
The Navy team located two aircraft wings, three tyres, air craft engine and the front part of fuselage.
WhenAsian Tribune asked whether they were able to find any remains of passengers or crew members, Navy spokesman replied in the negative and said they can clearly say only after the commence the salvage operation.
Lionair Flight 602 was a Lionair Antonov An-24RV and the aircraft departed from Palali airport with several high-ranking military officials of the Sri Lankan Army on a flight to Colombo and disappeared from radar screens just after the pilot had reported depressurization.
Initial reports indicated that the plane had been shot down by Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam rebels using Manpads. All 7 crew and 48 passengers were killed.
The Antonov AN-24 was leased from Gomelavia to operate flight 602, captained by highly experienced Ukranian pilot Matochko Anatoli and the aircraft went missing exactly ten minutes after take off.
The Ukranian crew consisted of Lysaivanov Siarhei (co-pilot), Kozlov Sergei (navigator) and Anapryienka Siarhei (flight engineer). The two Lion Air cabin crew were Dharshini Gunasekera (chief stewardess) and Chrishan Nelson (steward) and Vijitha (labourer).
- Asian Tribune -