29 September 1998
| Under investigation (Possible LTTE attack)|
Off the coast of Mannar District, Sri Lanka
Air Lanka Flight 512, 1998 MIAT Mongolian Airlines cr, Myanma Airways Flight 635, Colombo Central Bank bo, 1998 Occidental Petroleu
Lionair Flight 602 was a Lionair Antonov An-24RV which fell into the sea off the north-western coast of Sri Lanka on 29 September 1998. The aircraft departed Kankesanturai 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. Following the downing of Flight LN 602 all civil aviation between Colombo and Jaffna was suspended for many months by the Civil Aviation Authority. At the time of the crash, it was the 3rd deadliest crash involving an Antonov An-24, currently the 4th.
Lionair Flight 602 Wikipedia
The Antonov AN-24 was leased from Gomelavia to operate flight 602, captained by highly experienced Belarusian pilot Matochko Anatoli. The aircraft went missing exactly ten minutes after take off from Jaffna Airport. The Belarusian crew consisted of Lysaivanov Siarhei (co-pilot), Kozlov Sergei (navigator) and Anapryienka Siarhei (flight engineer). The Lion Air cabin crew were Dharshini Gunasekera (chief stewardess) and Chrishan Nelson (steward) and Vijitha (labourer).
The first signs of an LTTE threat to Lionair, the main operator of Colombo-Jaffna flights came a month before when a letter purported to be sent by an LTTE front organisation was delivered to the airline office at Stanley road in Jaffna. The letter from 'Tamil Eelam Administrative Service' said they had warned the Airline earlier for carrying military personnel and if it continued to ignore the warning, it would be attacked after 14 September. The airline rejected the warning, claiming that the letter had been sent by a business rival. The Sunday Times 'Air Investigation Desk' learns that Lion Air on its own tried to verify the authenticity of the letter, but could not.The airline office in Jaffna was closed four days before the plane was attacked after another warning was given to it.
On October 2012 the wreckage of a plane which believed to be the disintegrated parts of the missing Antonov were discovered on the sea bed off the Iranativu Island in the northern sea by the Sri Lankan Navy. Speculation surrounding a shootdown by LTTE are very likely, and a bomb possibly planted by a major terrorist organisation or the LTTE is also very likely. The discovery of the wreckage could lead to the discovery of what caused the accident.