MINEOLA, N.Y.

Former investigators push to reopen TWA crash probe

Former investigators are pushing to reopen the probe into the 1996 crash of TWA Flight 800, saying new evidence points to the often-discounted theory that a missile strike may have downed the jumbo jet.

The New York-to-Paris flight crashed July 17, 1996, minutes after it took off from John F. Kennedy International Airport, killing all 230 people aboard.

The effort to reopen the probe is being made in tandem with the release next month of a documentary that features the testimony of former investigators who raise doubts about the National Transportation Safety Board’s conclusion that the crash was caused by a center fuel tank explosion, probably caused by a spark from a short-circuit in the wiring.

“We don’t know who fired the missile,” said Jim Speer, an accident investigator for the Air Line Pilots Association, one of those seeking a new review of the probe. “But we have a lot more confidence that it was a missile.”

In a petition filed Wednesday seeking to reopen the probe, they say they have “reviewed the FAA radar evidence along with new evidence not available to the NTSB during the official investigation and contend that the NTSB’s probable cause determination is erroneous and should be reconsidered and modified accordingly.”

OAKLAND TOWNSHIP, Mich.

Weed-grown field joins list of locations in Hoffa search

Beneath a swimming pool, under a horse farm and now a weed-grown field north of Detroit. For at least the third time in a decade, FBI agents grabbed shovels and combed through dirt and mud in the search for Jimmy Hoffa’s remains or clues to the disappearance of the former Teamsters boss.

Once again, the search was futile.

“Certainly, we’re disappointed,” Detroit FBI chief Robert Foley told reporters Wednesday as federal and local authorities wrapped up another excavation that failed to turn up anything that could be linked to Hoffa, who has been missing since 1975.

Many people interested in the mystery assume Hoffa ran afoul of the mob and was whacked.

“Right now the case remains open,” Foley said. “At this point, if we do get logical leads and enough probable cause that warrant the resources to do an investigation, then we’ll continue to do so.”

The latest search for Hoffa’s remains was prompted by a tip from reputed ex-Mafia captain Tony Zerilli. About 40 FBI agents searched a small field surrounded by trees and a gravel road in Oakland Township. With the aid of a backhoe, they spent about 10 hours in the field before calling it quits.

— From news service reports