- 2011 SEP 19 -


          These are the reported remarks of Larry Vance, the Deputy Investigator-in-charge, to the CBC's The Fifth Estate program.  I have no doubt that these lines were written with the assistance of the TSB's media relations people, and were designed to throw off the media and the public by focusing on mundane facts and, in important places, mis-truths.  My comments follow these two pages.







           After reading the book 'Twice As Far', the reader of this website will immediately know that what Larry Vance has written here strays drastically from the truth.  For instance, the TSB's investigation did not determine exactly where and how the fire started.  Instead, it merely provided a possible location by pointing to the only place the TSB could legally attribute a fire source, and that action was based on mere speculation by believing that they had correctly positioned the burnt wires.  The reader will know exactly how Jim Foot arrived at his final placement of those wires, and his methods can hardly be called reliable.
          Even if Foot happened to be correct in the placement of some of the many burnt wires, what he determined to have been the original short-circuit event was merely that, the first short-circuit event, and it occurred because the insulation had been burnt away by the fire that had already started.  In every fire where there are live and active wires, there is usually at least one short-circuit even though it was not the cause of the fire.  In this case, there were nearly three dozen short-circuit events at one time or another during the course of the fire. 
          As for any 'ambiguity about this finding', what ever you say, Larry!  The TSB ran their investigation on a need to know basis.  When I told several of the members about the percentages of magnesium that had been found in some of the beads, they were astonished even though they had been working on the file and attending the weekly information meetings.  Many times, even John Garstang and Don Enns informed me that they did not know of certain results.  So, who decided?  Can there be any ambiguity when it was only the retired Air Force Colonel, Vic Gerden, who made the decisions. 
          "The 'lead-event' arc cannot be explained ....".  Larry, along with his people in the TSB, from the very start, assumed that the cause of the fire was a 'lead arcing event', and nothing else.  When you enter an investigation with only a limited scope of safety and a pre-conceived opinion of the cause, then the evidence gathered is limited to the requirements to substantiate that cause while other evidence is ignored or discarded.  The levels of magnesium, iron, and aluminium in the short-circuited wires was indeed ignored and then discarded.  What's more, when the credentials for the investigators of the TSB are examined, they can only show one TSB investigator to have had any training in fire investigation, and that was John Garstang.  The book 'Twice As Far' informs you of what he thought of the fire cause.  Vic Gerden, Larry Vance, and many of the others were simply pilots with no investigative skills at all.  Others were knowledgeable in aircraft maintenance and construction, but they had no knowledge of fire investigations.  Remember that this was not an investigation to determine the cause of the crash, as we learned very quickly that the cause could only be attributed to extreme fire damage.  The investigation's primary purpose was to determine the cause of the fire.  Only Garstang and I had that fire investigative training along with a knowledge of the damaged area of the aircraft.

          Vance mentions ‘effort by the RCMP to access the potential for a criminal involvement’.  After reading the book ‘Twice As Far’, anyone will understand just how limited that effort was by the RCMP's management.  There never was an official criminal investigation conducted by the Force, and any attempt that I made was immediately thwarted by my supervisors.  There was no passenger profiling to determine exactly who was on the plane, why they were there, or if they were a target.  There was no cargo verification, especially for the diamonds.  We don't even know how they were shipped, or even if they were ever on the plane.  Unknown at the time of the program, it is possible that a courier may have been carrying the diamonds in a case fastened to his wrist, and it was possibly retrieved by the divers of the USS Grapple.  The TSB knew nothing about it or why would Gerden have asked for verification of the diamond cargo.  Neither did the RCMP know of it, or they would have told the TSB.  Now that's some kind of an investigation when more than a billion dollars worth of diamonds are unaccounted for by the investigative agencies. 

            Vance mentions the tracking of the exhibits and wreckage pieces.  That initially was for any potential court case, considering the fact that there was a 16-billion-dollar civil suit before the courts.  However, later that diligence served its purpose for the TSB because there were so many important pieces of wreckage.  In the book I recount the problems the TSB had in locating pieces of debris after I left the hangar.  If it hadn’t been for the organized methods of the RCMP’s exhibit control system, they would have been in a severe mess as they had never undertaken such a major task and didn’t known where to begin on the first days.

          Vance mentions that every piece of debris was examined by fire and explosive experts of the RCMP.  He fails to mention that I was one of those experienced fire investigators.  However, just like the senior management of the RCMP, if there had been an incendiary device, the TSB management along with Vance, Foot, and Sidlay somehow expected to find its burnt-out remains.  Incendiary devices are designed to burn, thereby leaving nothing behind.  However, as indicated in the book, trace evidence in the form of magnesium, iron, and aluminium was left behind, in the short-circuited wire beads.

            Vance goes on to mention Auger Electron Spectroscopy (AES) and its unreliable results.  Who in the RCMP and the TSB had the qualification to make such a claim?  Dr. Brown’s results worried the TSB and RCMP supervisors sufficiently that they influenced his final report by telling him that he would not be paid for his services unless he removed any mention of magnesium from his final report.  That is a criminal act on the part of the TSB and RCMP senior members.  Vance goes on to mention sea water, yet testing was performed that totally eliminated sea water as the possible source.

          When Vance mentions the quantity of magnesium found, he is borrowing from Jim Foot.  I believe that Foot never took a chemistry or physics class in his entire life because he just could not or perhaps he refused to understand the implications of the AES findings.  However, the TSB would have lost control of the file had the matter been turned over to the RCMP and the FBI for a proper criminal investigation.

          Larry Vance also fails to understand that my primary role in the investigation was as an RCMP Forensic Crime Scene Investigator, a police officer.  Assisting the TSB in various other roles allowed me to perform that investigation.  Indeed, Assistant Commissioner Conlin, in her report, agreed that I was a police officer carrying out a criminal investigation.  Vance’s baseball analogy is surely his attempt at a joke.  It in effect shows just how Vance and his superiors approached the file, in that it was not a serious life and death situation.  Two hundred and twenty-nine people died in this crash, and Vance is comparing it to a baseball game.  However, even his comparison is wrong.  With the work that I performed and the advice and assistance that I provided, it would have been more appropriate for him to say that I was the team’s trainer instead of saying I was an outfielder.  Actually, the joke is on him because he was a rookie when it came to major investigations and physical evidence.  He was still in his initial training phase.  However, Vance, like Gerden, believed that all one needed to be was a pilot in order to understand the file.

            Vance’s last paragraph is a futile attempt to place more discredit at my feet.  However, I had no control over what the CBC broadcast in their program.  As well, one has to remember that a very large percentage of the viewers, at the time of the accident some thirteen years earlier would not yet have been in their teens and would have known nothing about the accident.  However, there again, Vance is setting himself up as an expert in the correct methods of yet another field, that of broadcast journalism. 

            Larry Vance has recently become involved in the MH-370 missing aircraft in the Indian Ocean, as well as an old Canadian aircrash in British Columbia.  By simply viewing one small piece of flap material possibly from the MH-370 flight, he was able to establish the method of destruction of the aircraft and all those on board.  This is all contrary to the opinions of everyone else involved in the crash investigation and the search for the aircraft.  Larry Vance, who was merely a pilot at the time of the Swissair 111 crash investigation, has expertise in many areas, whether he is trained or not in those areas.

            What is interesting regarding Vance's stand as the Assistant Lead Investigator for this accident and his having taken on the role as the TSB's defacto 'spokesperson' for this matter some years after his retirement from the TSB is the fact that the results of the tests were fabricated in favour of an electrical accidental cause.  The burn tests at the FAA showed that there was insufficient fire-load in the top of the aircraft to do the damage that was done, that is until the final test was undertaken.  In order to make that test a TSB success, they overloaded the test frame with as much as six or more times the amount of fuel normally available in the top of the aircraft, and burnt it in a favourable manner so that it created a fire storm in the test frame.  At the same time, Dr. Brown was intimidated and coerced into altering his AES results so that there was no further indication of the elements of an incendiary device in the electricl short circuits.  Larry Vance, as the second in charge, would have known of these occurrances.  Because they were put forward in a manner that supported the TSB's reported and published results as to the accidental electrical cause of the fire, it makes those people associated with these actions guilty of criminal offences.  In my opinion, Larry Vance either knew of or reasonably should have known of these criminal activities, and as such, it makes him morally and criminally responsible along with others in the TSB.




*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *


------------ TIME LINE ------------