Pensacola News Journal 

Wednesday, July 19, 2000

TWA crash inquiry appalled witness

By Beth McPherson News Journal staff writer

It's been four years since Dwight Brumley watched the burning wreckage of
TWA Flight 800 fall into the Atlantic Ocean, and the memory still weighs
heavily on his mind.

At the time, Brumley, a master chief and training program coordinator for
the Navy, was on his way to a conference in Rhode Island. Tired of the book
he was reading, he looked out his window and watched what he thought was a
flare rise through the night sky. Then came the explosion, but Brumley
wasn't sure what he'd seen.

An hour-and-a-half later, he learned that the ball of fire was a 747 with
230 crew and passengers aboard.

The darkness and the distance from the explosion shielded Brumley from the
worst of the emotional onslaught, but he still revisits that memory each
time he sees news accounts, and each time he steps onto an airplane.

``I felt strong empathy for the families and the people on board. There were
whole families that were just gone,'' he said. ``After that, each time I got
on a plane, there was still that little voice in the back of my head. There
were a few times when I had to take that exact flight again, and I always
said a little silent prayer when I went.''

That lingering dismay and the anniversary of the crash sent Brumley, 48, to
Washington, D.C., Monday where he helped announce the formation of the TWA
Eyewitness Alliance, a group that hopes to convince the federal government
to re-examine the cause of the crash, which was witnessed by hundreds. The
alliance theorizes a missile downed the jet.

``The information we presented seemed discounted,'' he said. ``Ninety-six
out of a hundred witnesses said they saw one thing, and four percent saw
something they're making fit with what they think happened. It's kind scary
- something just doesn't jibe.''

During the week after TWA Flight 800 went down, Brumley was the subject of
two 45-minute interviews: one with Naval investigators, the other with local
FBI agents. He has since had no contact with either agency, and is
particulary appalled that he was never contacted by anyone with aviation

No one from the local FBI office was available for comment Tuesday. During
major aviation disasters, the FBI focuses on criminal matters while the
National Transportation Safety Board deals with the mechanical issues.

In 1998, Brumley retired from the Navy and began a second career as a math
and science teacher. He most recently taught full time at Ferry Pass Middle
School, followed by a stint as a substitute teacher.

Brumley returned home Tuesday from Washington, D.C., to find several calls
on his answering machine, including a retired 747 pilot and others wanting
to talk about TWA Flight 800.

``I don't want to come across as a conspiracy theorist,'' he said. ``I'm
just hoping there's a more open, honest look at what happened.''

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