The New York Post
November 30, 1998, Monday
SECTION: Page Six; Pg. 008
LENGTH: 477 words
HEADLINE: TWA MISSILE THEORY LIVES ON L.I.
THE people of Long Island - especially the 150 witnesses who saw a "missile" streaking up toward TWA 800 before it exploded - aren't buying the federal government's explanation of an accidental spark in a fuel tank.
While the mainstream media have accepted the government's findings - and applauded the decision of television networks to kill Oliver Stone's investigation into the possible coverup of evidence which doesn't fit the accident scenario - there is far more skepticism on the island.
The Suffolk Life weekly newspapers are running a three-part series on the July 17, 1996 crash of TWA 800 which took the lives of all 235 on board.
Dan's Papers published a story this week in which Donald Nibert, of Montoursville, Pa., whose daughter Cheryl died in the mysterious fireball, expresses his disappointment Stone's project was cancelled.
"I was willing to be subjected to a program in which something of the truth might come out," Nibert said. "I am upset they cancelled it. I think it needs to come out. My wife and I are convinced a coverup is involved. I am upset at the major news media's acceptance of what the government says."
The Suffolk Life series ignores the silencing of Stone and focuses on a 109-page report sponsored by a group of retired military personnel experienced in aviation disasters.
Retired Navy Commander William S. Donaldson, who wrote the report, asserted TWA 800 was destroyed by one or more anti-aircraft missiles.
Donaldson said it was probably an American-made heat-seeking Stinger missile, because a Stinger has the range to reach an altitude of 13,800 feet. which is how high the jetliner was as it passed over Moriches Inlet en route to Paris.
The Stinger could have come from Afghanistan, where the U.S. provided rebels with plenty of arms in their fight against Soviet troops. The report noted that some Stingers were stolen by an "Iran-connected group" and smuggled across "the U.S.-Canadian border."
James E. Hall, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, defends the government's findings and discounts all eyewitnesses who claimed to have seen a missile.
In a letter to Donaldson, he wrote, "It must be remembered that the closest eyewitness was more than 10 miles from the accident site, and the helicopter pilots you mentioned were more than 15 miles from the site."
Meanwhile, Jim Sanders, author of "The Downing of TWA 800," still faces prosecution for accepting a swatch of seat fabric stolen from the hangar in Calverton where the doomed jet was being pieced together.
Sanders said the fabric shows traces of what could be missile fuel, but warns that no one should hold their breath waiting to hear the news on TV: "The major news networks ... don't have the stomach for the vilification process you will be subjected to when you take on the Federal government."
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