A new documentary film reviewing the 1996 crash of TWA Flight 800 off the coast of Long Island, New York, challenges the conclusive government report that attributes the incident to faulty wiring connected to a central fuel tank.
“TWA Flight 800” centers around six retired members of the original accident investigation team who are now retracting statements they made in a 17,000-page National Transportation and Safety Board report released four years after the crash.
Included in the film are Hank Hughes, who served as a senior accident investigator with the NTSB and helped reconstruct the aircraft following its destruction; Bob Young, a top TWA investigator who participated in the investigation; and Jim Speer, an accident investigator for the Airline Pilots Association.
While the final NTSB report said that faulty wiring connected to a central fuel tank caused a blast that destroyed the fuselage, the now-retired officials are going against that theory and suggesting that the explosion came from outside the aircraft.
In the weeks and months after the explosion and subsequent crash of the fated Flight 800, which killed all 230 people on board, speculation arose that suggested the plane was the victim of a terrorist attack. The conspiracy theories even lead the FBI to conduct its own criminal investigation. Among the possible causes suggested were a bomb in the cargo hold and an anti-aircraft missile. Several witnesses even claimed they saw an object or streak of light that looked like a missile or rocket moving toward the plane before it exploded.
The NTSB ultimately ruled that the explosion was caused by an electrical short, most likely originating in a fuel gauge line, that found its way into the center-wing fuel tank, detonating the lethal fuel vapors there.
The NTSB said Tuesday that it was aware of the pending release of the documentary, which will air on the EPIX TV network July 17, the 17th anniversary of the crash.
"As required by NTSB regulation, a petition for reconsideration of board findings ... must be based on the discovery of NEW evidence or on a showing that the board's findings are erroneous," NTSB spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said in a statement. "At this point, the NTSB has not received a petition; however, we stand ready to review one, should it be filed."
A co-producer of the film, Tom Stalcup, who is also co-founder of the Flight 800 Independent Researchers Organization and has been a longtime and passionate critic of the official investigation, told CNN they have a "trifecta of elements" that will "prove that the officially proposed fuel-air explosion did not cause the crash." That trifecta includes forensic evidence, firsthand sources and corroborating eyewitnesses, and the whistle-blowing investigators.
Furthermore, the evidence proves that "one or more ordnance explosions outside the aircraft caused the crash," the producers said. They noted that the film does not identify or speculate on the source of the ordnance explosions.
My name is Carey Vanderborg and I'm a journalist working in New York City. I love food, travel, craft beer, live music and writing about all of the above.