Terrorist Stool Pigeons latest participants in
July 19, 1996
New York – From the bottom of the continental
shelf to the highest levels of Washington, Americans yesterday searched
for evidence the nation’s second-deadliest aviation disaster was also
its deadliest terrorist attack.
The FBI stopped short of declaring the crash of TWA Flight
800 a crime, though the bureau announced a “massive” investigation
to find out what caused the huge explosion that brought down the 747.
“We have a lot of things that look like terrorism,” said
James Kallstrum, head of the FBI’s New York office.
Assuming the disaster may have been deliberate, agents began
contacting informants in the terrorist underworld, according to a
federal investigator who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of
“It would be foolish not to be out there seeking every bit
of information we can, from any corner,” the source said.
Unidentified sources quoted yesterday by ABC News said
a federal agency received a claim of responsibility for the TWA
explosion from a group tied to Ramzi Yousef.
He is now on federal trial in New York City, accused of plotting
to blow up 12 West Coast-bound airliners in a single day in 1995.
The group said the TWA explosion was in retaliation for
Yousef’s capture, ABC said. An
FBI spokesman refused to comment on the report.
Yousef, 29, who says he is innocent and is representing
himself at the trial, is also accused of bombing a Philippines Airlines
flight in December 1994, killing a Japanese passenger. Authorities also believe Yousef was the mastermind of the
World Trade Center bombing in February 1993.
Kallstrom told reporters that the FBI would not take control
of the TWA investigation from the National Transportation Safety Board
unless more evidence in found. He
urged people to call a toll-free number with tips, and gave the Internet
address for the FBI home page.
The head of the Federal Aviation Administration said the
government has been strengthening security at U.S. airports since last
summer and is prepared to upgrade it further is needed.
“The FAA’s security program will be modified as needed to
ensure the safety of the traveling public, “ David Hinson said
Rain, wind and fog hampered efforts to recover the wreckage
that Kallstrom said might contain vital clues to what destroyed the
plane Wednesday night and killed all 230 people aboard.
NTSB Vice Chairman Robert Francis said divers did not go into
the water yesterday. Seas
were so choppy that some search vessel crew members were getting sick.
“Its though stuff out there,” he said.
Sonar detected a 15-foot spike on the ocean floor –
possibly part of the plane, Francis said.
But the search had to be suspended for fear the sonar equipment,
which trails on cables behind the ship, would be lost in the storm.
There was no sign of the plane’s “black boxes,” which
record pilots’ conversations and the plane’s operations.
Suffolk County Medical Examiner Charles Wetli said that most
of the victims suffered fatal injuries in the air and that while some
may have been conscious when they hit the water, drowning was an
unlikely cause of death.
“It looks like a great many of them died upon impact with
the water,” he said. “That
is not to say that serious injury or death did not occur in the sky
Most suffered blunt injuries “like those in a super
high-speed car crash,” he said. One
or two appeared to have inhaled water, but that was probably a reflex
action, he said.
© 2001, 2002, 2003 & 2004