June 19, 2013

Former TWA Flight 800 investigators want new probe

The New York-to-Paris flight crashed in 1996 just minutes after take off, killing all 230 people aboard, and now some believe a missile brought it down.

The Associated Press

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In this Nov. 19, 1997 file photo, FBI agents and New York state police guard the reconstruction of TWA Flight 800 in Calverton, N.Y. Flight 800 exploded and crashed July 17, 1996 while flying from New York to Paris, killing all 230 people aboard. Former investigators on Wednesday, June 19, 2013 called on the National Transportation Safety Board to re-examine the cause, saying new evidence points to the often-discounted theory that a missile strike may have downed the jumbo jet. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

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This file graphic image, provided by the Central Intelligence Agency, Dec. 9, 1997, shows an animation of the disintegration of Paris-bound TWA Flight 800 as it explodes off the coast of Long Island on July 17, 1996. The video was used to explain eyewitness accounts of the explosion, which killed all 230 people aboard. Former investigators on Wednesday, June 19, 2013 called on the National Transportation Safety Board to re-examine the cause, saying new evidence points to the often-discounted theory that a missile strike may have downed the jumbo jet. (AP Photo/Central Intelligence Agency, File)

The petitioners contend that the testimony of more than 200 witnesses who reported seeing streaks of light headed toward the plane should be reconsidered. The NTSB said after the first investigation that it found no evidence of a missile strike. It explained that what witnesses likely saw was the jetliner pitching upward in the first few moments after the explosion, but some witnesses still maintain that the streak of light they saw emanated from the waterline and zoomed upward toward the plane.

The petition filed with the NTSB to reopen the probe claims "new analyses of the FAA radar evidence demonstrate that the explosion that caused the crash did not result from a low-velocity fuel-air explosion as the NTSB has determined. Rather, it was caused by a detonation or high-velocity explosion."

John Seaman, the longtime leader of an organization of TWA 800 victims' families, noted there have been several attempts over the years to reopen the investigation.

"Unless something was to develop that would be very clear and compelling, then a lot of these interested parties are not really helpful," said Seaman, whose niece died on the flight. He spoke to The Associated Press in a telephone interview from upstate New York on Tuesday, ahead of the formal filing of the petition.

"They reopen wounds," he said of the petitioners. "Personally I can't keep going over it again and again. I think most families feel that way."

The documentary airs on the EPIX premium television channel. An EPIX spokeswoman declined to say how much the filmmakers were paid for the documentary.

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