This weekend marks the 25th anniversary of the night Swissair Flight 111 crashed off Nova Scotia, killing all 229 people on board when the plane plunged into the ocean off Peggys Cove.
Remembrance ceremonies are taking place in Nova Scotia to honor the victims and those they helped, including PEI ER Physician Trevor Jain.
Back then, Jain was a fourth-year medical student and Army reservist in Halifax, and had some background in pathology. They asked him to help set up a morgue in a hangar at the Shearwater Air Force Base, a place he now considers “sacred ground.”
Over the next six weeks, he and other members of the team conducted forensic autopsies on all the remains that could be recovered. As a pathology operations officer, he volunteered to handle all autopsies on child remains, according to a publication on the Canadian Medical Association website.
“I’ve been deployed eight times with the military,” Jain told Breaking: in an interview this week.
“Everyone wants to talk about Iraq, the Middle East or the global war on terror, but I can honestly say that internal operations take their toll on soldiers.
“That was the most horrible deployment, for me, of the eight I’ve done.”
The 1998 flight was en route from New York to Geneva, Switzerland.
After noticing some technical errors on board, the crew of the Swissair flight attempted to divert to Halifax International Airport, according to Transport Safety Board of Canada Incident Investigation Report. As the crew prepared to land, they told air traffic controllers that a fire had spread to parts of the plane.
Shortly after, many onboard systems failed, and at 10:31 p.m., the plane crashed into the ocean southwest of Peggys Cove, near the community of Bayswater.
Fishermen in the area were among the first to respond after hearing a loud bang. They found a debris field covered in jet fuel, remnants of the plane itself, and human remains.
Then came all the emergency teams and medical personnel, like Jain.
“I clearly remember the first autopsy. I remember the smells, the images, the smell of [jet fuel], Seawater. All that experience,” Jain said.
Jain took six weeks off school to work with the army in the morgue for Swissair 111. She worried what that would mean for her studies, but Dalhousie Medical College counted her job as part of their rotation.
“My dean was amazing with his support that year,” he said.
On Sunday there will be a full day of commemorations at Peggys Cove.
Lifeguards and volunteers, including Jain, are expected to attend. It will be his first time at Peggys Cove since the accident.
“I just couldn’t go visit him. I couldn’t go see him,” she said.
“I made it back to Hanger B in Shearwater. I wanted to see that building. I saw that building in 2018, 2019, just because it was hallowed ground where so many amazing Canadians did amazing work.”