Former investigators of the TWA Flight 800 airplane crash have revealed that an explosion came from outside the plane, thereby contradicting the government's conclusion that the fatal crash was an accident.
The investigators claim they were silenced from telling the truth by their superiors, and were forced to conclude that the 1996 crash was an accident sparked by a fuel tank explosion. In a new EPIX film called "TWA Flight 800", the former National Transportation Safety Board investigators communicate their beliefs that an outside explosion was responsible for the deadly crash that occurred nearly 17 years ago, killing all 230 people on board.
The documentary film revolves around the crash of the Trans World Airlines Flight 800, a Boeing 747-131 that exploded and plunged into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of New York on July 17, 1996. The plane had been en route from New York to Paris, but went up in flames over the Atlantic Ocean, just 12 minutes after take-off from John F. Kennedy International Airport. There were no survivors, and some speculated that the plane might have been the target of a terrorist attack.
Several witnesses alleged that they saw a streak of light moving toward the aircraft before it exploded, leading some to believe that an anti-aircraft missile or rocket was responsible for the explosion. But an NTSB report drawn up after a 16-month investigation concluded that the "accident" was a result of faulty wiring that caused an electrical short circuit in the fuel gauge line, thereby resulting in a devastating fuel tank explosion. All NTSB employees and investigators were forced to stand by this conclusion, whether or not they believed it, the film's producers said in a statement.
"These investigators were not allowed to speak to the public or refute any comments made by their superiors and/or NTSB and FBI officials about their work at the time of the official investigation," the statement says.
Despite the NTSB's report, some Americans continued to believe that the plane was fatally struck by a missile or rocket. They were termed conspiracy theorists, and their beliefs long overshadowed by the government's official conclusion. Pierre Salinger, a former Press Secretary for John F. Kennedy and a reporter for ABC News, claimed he had seen proof that the US Navy shot down the plane. He argued that the government covered up the truth to hide the agency's fatal mistake.
© Reuters / Hyungwon Kang
Salinger's evidence was an e-mail from Richard Russell, a former United Airlines pilot who had obtained a videotape of radar screens from the night of the TWA explosion. But Bob Francis, the former vice chairman of the NTSB, told CNN that Salinger was "an idiot" who "didn't know what he was talking about" and was "totally irresponsible".
The crash is considered the third-deadliest US aviation accident in history, but the now-retired NTSB investigators featured in the documentary are hinting that it may never have been an "accident" at all. Interviews with members of the NTSB team will air on EPIX TV next month, on the 17-year anniversary of the deadly crash.
Six whistleblowers featured in the film are expected to expose the government's cover-up of an incident that may have been an attack, a grave mistake by the Navy, or some other external force, if their claims are true. The producers of the film say that the NTSB investigators do not speculate about the source of the external explosion, but simply contradict the government's official report.
"This team of investigators who actually handled the wreckage and victims' bodies, prove that the officially proposed fuel-air explosion did not cause the crash," the producers said in a statement. "They also provide radar and forensic evidence proving that one or more ordnance explosions outside the aircraft caused the crash."
Tom Stalcup, co-producer of the film, told CNN that the documentary provides "solid proof" of the external detonation.
"Of course, everyone knows about the eyewitness statements, but we also have corroborating information from the radar data, and the radar data shows an asymmetric explosion coming out of that plane - something that didn't happen in the official theory," Stalcup added.
The film's producers have submitted a petition, demanding that the NTSB reopen its investigation using new evidence provided by the documentary. A number of former investigators have signed the document.
The film has the potential to solve the mystery of a deadly crash in which no survivors were left to testify about its cause. Although the retired NTSB investigators do not speculate about the cause of the attack, a previous incident may provide some insight into the realm of possibilities behind it.
© AFP Photo / Paul J. Richards
The re-assembled shell of TWA flight #800 sits inside a hangar at the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) training facility during a press conference July 16, 2008 in Ashburn, Virginia.
On October 4, 2001, a Russian commercial airliner en route from Tel Aviv to Novosibirsk crashed in the Black Sea, causing the fatalities of all 78 passengers onboard. A number of reports surfaced after the incident, claiming that a Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile was fired at the aircraft. For days, Russian and Ukrainian officials dismissed the theories.But on October 12, officials admitted that the plane had indeed been shot down.
''The metal parts found in the plane and a few of the bodies closely resemble -- in shape and weight -- the shrapnel that stuff the S-200 missile,''Yevgeny Shaposhnikov, a member of the investigation team, announced in 2001. ''Ukraine's evidence that all missiles fired during the training either hit their targets or self-destructed is not convincing.''
Ukrainian officials admitted that they had mistakenly shot down the Russian Tu-154 airliner.
The cause of the Tu-154 crash was revealed days after it occurred, but the mystery of the TWA Flight 800 still remains. But with NTSB investigators providing evidence of an external explosion, new details about the 1996 crash may soon arise.