May 3 in History

Air Lanka Flight 512, a Lockheed L-1011 Tristar operating the London Gatwick Airport via Zurich and Dubai to Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport and Maldives’ Velana International Airport in Malé flight, was on the ground in Colombo, about to fly on to Malé, when an explosion ripped the aircraft in two, destroying it. The flight carried mainly French, West German, British and Japanese tourists; 21 people were killed on the aircraft, including 3 British, 2 West German, 3 French, 2 Japanese, 2 Maldivian, and 1 Pakistani. 41 people were injured.

Boarding of the flight had been delayed due to the aircraft being damaged during cargo / baggage loading. During boarding, a bomb, hidden in the aircraft’s ‘Fly Away Kit’ (a collection of small spare parts), exploded. The bomb had been timed to detonate mid-flight; the delay likely saved many lives.

The Sri Lankan government concluded that the bomb was planted by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to sabotage peace talks between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government. They reported that a search of the aircraft the next day uncovered a parcel containing uniforms with the insignia of the Black Tigers, the suicide wing of LTTE.


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