U.S. sued over TWA 800 documents
Investigators claim officials covering up evidence of missile strike

                      July 17 —  A group of independent investigators
                      who remain convinced that a missile brought
                     down a TWA jumbo jet off New York four years
                     ago sued the government Monday, alleging that
                     several agencies have refused to disclose
                     findings about the crash.

     ‘The [government] theory will never explain an object rising from the surface.’ 
     — TOM STALCUP - Flight 800 Independent Researchers Organization. 

                                THE FLIGHT 800 Independent Researchers
                         Organization charged that authorities have ignored Freedom
                         of Information Act requests for radar data and analysis of
                         metal found in crash victims’ bodies.
                                TWA Flight 800 fell into the sea in flames shortly after
                         takeoff from New York to Paris on July 17, 1996, killing all
                         230 people on board.
                                The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has
                         ruled out a missile or a bomb as the cause of the crash,
                         attributing it to an explosion of fuel fumes in the Boeing
                         747’s center fuel tank.
                                The exact cause of the blast has not been located, but
                         investigators have focused on a possible electrical fault. The
                         safety board has said it has found no “intrusion damage” or
                         explosives residue consistent with a missile or a bomb.
                                But the group, which filed the suit in Springfield, Mass.,
                         District Court, insists that the disaster was caused by one or
                         several heat-seeking missiles and have accused the
                         government of hiding or altering data to fit its conclusion.
                         NTSB REJECTED THEORY 
                               Dozens of the 755 witnesses interviewed by the FBI
                         shortly after the crash reported seeing a streak of light rising
                         from the ground or the ocean and heading toward the plane.
                                “The center wing tank theory will never explain an
                         object rising from the surface,” said Tom Stalcup, chairman
                         of the Flight 800 Independent Researchers Organization.
                                The NTSB said in March that the eyewitness accounts
                         were of little use, as the questions had been framed by FBI
                         investigators with a missile theory in mind. More than a year
                         after the accident, the FBI officially abandoned the theory
                         that a bomb or a missile was involved.
                                A final hearing on the crash is scheduled for Aug. 22-23.
                         MEMORIAL TO CRASH VICTIMS
                                The suit comes one day after families and friends of the
                         victims of TWA 800 broke ground for a new memorial on
                         the Long Island shore not far from where the plane went
                         down four years ago.   

     ‘For the family members, it was an extremely emotional time —  this is something they have wanted for a long time.’   — FRANK LOMBARDI - Project spokesman 

                                About 50 families from as far away as Australia were
                         joined Sunday by New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and
                         Gov. George Pataki and U.S. Transportation Secretary
                         Rodney Slater, who attended on behalf of President Bill
                                “For the family members, it was an extremely emotional
                         time — this is something they have wanted for a long time,”
                         said Frank Lombardi, a spokesman for the memorial
                         project. “It’s a special place. It brings them as close as they
                         can to their family members.”
                                A private ceremony was held Monday. 

                                Organizers have raised about half the money needed for the 
                        $1.5 million project, which they hope to have built by next summer.
                                The centerpiece for the memorial will be a 12-foot granite wall 
                        with the names of the victims. 
                                The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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