NEW YORK (PIX11) — Nearly 17 years after a TWA jet exploded in the sky off the Long Island coast just eleven minutes after taking off from John F. Kennedy Airport, investigators who worked on the initial probe are going public, saying the true cause of the July 1996 disaster was covered up. In an upcoming documentary, they conclude some form of missile hit the plane — and refute what was said publicly, after a four year investigation: that an explosion in the overheated “central fuel tank” caused the plane to blow up.
Hank Hughes, who was a senior investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board, said in a conference call with reporters Wednesday morning that, “There’s no motive for any of us other than to see the truth served. We owe it to the 230 people and their families.”
230 passengers and crew bound for Paris were killed when TWA Flight 800 blew up — just miles from the shore of East Moriches, Long Island. Hundreds of witnesses reported seeing a streak of light in the sky, heading toward the plane — an object that looked like a missile. There was speculation, at the time, that U.S. Navy ships may have been conducting military exercises nearby or perhaps, that a terrorist using a shoulder-launched missile took the plane down.
“We don’t know who fired the missile,” said Jim Speer, who was working as an accident investigator for the Airline Pilots Association. Speer claims in the documentary that he found the first, explosive residue on the right wing when sifting through evidence in the hangar located in Calverton, Long Island, where the TWA wreckage was taken.
In the documentary, the now-retired investigators claim they saw FBI agents removed specific pieces of wreckage from the hangar — wreckage that was never returned.
Speer talked about seeing three, oval-shaped holes on one piece. “I was convinced the holes were formed by a high-energy blast,” he said.
The NTSB investigators said they were pushed aside by the Federal Bureau of Investigation from day one, ordered not to photograph the wreckage and not to go into one, specific room that was only used by the FBI.
The documentary features about 30 eyewitnesses, most of them talking about a missile-like object that was traveling toward the plane. One woman claimed a government investigator came to see her shortly before she was set to become a U.S. citizen. She told the filmmakers, “He said it would be very wise if you did not talk about the plane, if you want to become a citizen.”
Tom Stalcup, a physicist who is a driving force behind the documentary, simply called TWA Flight 800, filed numerous Freedom of Information requests with the government, and told reporters new documents back up the documentary’s claims that eyewitnesse testimony was ultimately ignored, in favor of the stated cause of the explosion: overheating in the central fuel tank.
Stalcup and his collaborators have now filed a petition with the National Transportation Safety Board, asking the agency to re-open the TWA Flight 800 investigation. The group believes a missile took the plane down and when asked if they believe it was a military ship doing exercises nearby, Stalcup responded, “We didn’t get the identity of the ship.”
Stalcup said about 700 eyewitnesses actually saw the streak of light heading toward the plane that July night in 1996, but none of them were ever allowed to testify at public hearings a year later.
The documentary features a CIA-produced video that was shown to the public about a year after the crash, claiming the jet “lurched up” after the fuel tank exploded, giving the appearance of a streaking light. A narrator on the video intones, “It was not a missile.”