Former NTSB Official Backs Missile Theory

21 July, 1998

By Scott Hogenson
CNS Executive Editor

(CNS) A former National Transportation Safety Board member says he can no longer support the conclusion of the NTSB that a spark in a fuel cell caused the explosion and crash of TWA Flight 800 more than two years ago.

Dr. Vernon L. Grose, who also served as a regular commentator on CNN during its coverage of the incident, told CNS in an exclusive interview that new evidence about the explosion indicates that a possible missile detonation may have brought down the airliner, killing all 230 passengers and crew on board.

During a presentation of information Monday on the crash, Grose said he saw previously undisclosed evidence that a near-proximity missile explosion may have brought down the jet.

"It disturbed me to see photographic evidence of impinging bent in, not bent out skin of the aircraft forward of the center fuel tank, and that is sufficiently primary evidence that should be explained away."

Unlike some missiles that must make contact with or pierce a target before exploding, a near-proximity missile need only approach a target before detonation, with the ensuing shock or 'pressure wave' being sufficient to bring down the target.

Grose, who spent six hours on CNN as an expert commentator the night of the explosion, said the new information indicates that a blast occurred on the outside of the aircraft, not the inside. In describing the debris recovered from around the area in which the fuel tanks are thought to have exploded, Grose said "The wreckage that they've assembled is imploded, rather than exploded at that point," indicating a pressure from outside the aircraft.

A number of people, including former aviators and aircraft accident investigators, have said that one or more missiles were responsible for the crash, and dozens of eyewitnesses have reportedly told FBI investigators that they saw what appeared to have been objects streaking through the sky
toward the aircraft the night of the incident.

"The idea of a pressure wave has some merit that needs to be either answered or dismissed, and that's where I felt that the NTSB had not really fully explained that," Grose said.

Grose was also critical of some aspects of the FBI's handling of the case, saying the bureau's refusal to turn over complete information on eyewitness interviews hurts the investigation and generates more speculation.

One of the things Grose said that caused him to "recalibrate" his position on the cause of the crash was "the reticence of the FBI to join and expose what they learned in their interrogation of witnesses, which they cut the NTSB out of."

"If you don't come to clean resolution, you invite all kinds of conspiracy theory," Grose said. "I really object to the FBI thinking that they can keep all that they did as black secrets if in fact they endorse the center fuel tank (explosion theory)."

A member of the NTSB from 1983-1984, Grose also took part in Vice President Al Gore's White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security in 1997. For two years, Grose discounted the missile theory surrounding the downing of TWA Flight 800, and even debated the issue on national television. His list of media credentials includes appearances on NBC's Today Show, ABC's
Good Morning, America, and World News Tonight, and more than 100 appearances on CNN.

"Even then I was holding out against both bomb and missile (theories) until we had more evidence," said Grose. But new forensic data and information alleging that the FBI suppressed eyewitness testimony has apparently provided Grose with the evidence he needed to revise his thinking on what
caused the crash of TWA Flight 800.

"There's no question that the FBI shut down the investigation," Grose said.