NTSB denies request to reopen TWA Flight 800 crash investigation

The reassembled shell of TWA Flight 800 sits inside a hangar at the National Transportation Safety Board training facility in 2008 in Ashburn, Va.
(Paul J. Richards / AFP/Getty Images)

The National Transportation Safety Board will not reopen the 1996 crash investigation of Trans World Airlines Flight 800 despite a continuing fight to get the agency to consider whether a missile hit the plane, the agency announced Wednesday.

The documentary group TWA 800 Project, a collection of former NTSB investigators and scientists, petitioned the NTSB to examine evidence that they say shows an external force from something such as a rocket or missile brought the plane down.

Evidence presented by the group includes multiple eyewitness statements about a streak of light which appeared to be heading toward the aircraft before the explosion, members said.


All 230 people on board were killed when the Boeing 747 crashed off the coast of Long Island shortly after takeoff from John F. Kennedy International Airport on July 17, 1996.

After a four-year investigation, the NTSB concluded the explosion was caused by flammable fuel/air vapors in a fuel tank, possibly sparked by a short circuit.

The NTSB denied the group’s petition because it said the evidence and analysis it presented did not show the original findings were incorrect, according to a news release.

“Our investigations are never ‘closed’,” Christopher Hart, acting NTSB chairman said in the release. “We always remain open to the presentation of new evidence.”

Tom Stalcup, a physicist and member of the TWA 800 Project, said he was “hoping the NTSB would do the right thing,” but is not surprised.

“I mostly thought we would be rejected,” he said.

Still, the fight is far from over, Stalcup said.

“This is not the end of the road by any means,” he said, but declined to elaborate on the group’s next move.


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