Lloyd's of London canceled its plans to search the site of 1998's Swissair crash off Canada's Atlantic coast for $200 million worth of diamonds and jewels, saying it was sorry "for any distress" its initial search plans caused victims' families. The crash killed 229 people, including two members of the U.S. watch industry, William Fuhrmann of Chopard and Patrick W. Bell of Tourneau.
Through a Canadian insurance company, Lloyd's had asked the Nova Scotia provincial government for permission to hunt for 4.5 pounds of diamonds and 11 pounds of jewelry listed on the flight manifest. According to the Associated Press, the diamonds reportedly were in a stainless steel tube, which may have disintegrated on impact or been driven deep into the seabed.
"The reputation of Lloyd's has always been founded on its integrity," the company said in a prepared statement following the cancellation of the search plans. "Consequently, Lloyd's will not dive or explore the site, respecting the wishes of the families. Lloyd's would like to apologize to all of the families of the victims of the Swissair crash for any distress caused by its application for a license."
Lloyd's had said it planned to start hunting this summer, using a mini-submarine to seek the gems among the wreckage, about 200 feet underwater. Swissair said it was not involved in the salvage issue.
Families of crash victims argued before the Nova Scotia legislature that no one should be allowed to "rake through" the site and a member of the legislature representing communities near the crash site said the province should reject any treasure trove application "because of the sacredness of the site."
- by Mark E. Dixon