US probers say TWA 800 witness reports little use 

March 21, 2000 
  
WASHINGTON (Reuters) Air safety investigators have concluded that witness 
accounts of the 1996 explosion of a TWA jumbo jet off Long Island, New York, 
are of little use in their nearly completed probe of the crash. 

The National Transportation Safety Board Tuesday issued the report of its 
"witness group'' that reviewed 755 records of interviews performed by the 
Federal Bureau of Investigation following the July 17, 1996, crash that 
killed all 230 people on board. 

"The FBI witness documents reviewed by the witness group are poorly suited 
for purposes of an aircraft accident investigation,'' the investigators 
concluded. 

The safety board is expected to hold a final hearing on the crash of TWA 
flight 800 later this year. 

Investigators suspect an electrical fault ignited fuel vapors in the Boeing 
747s nearly empty center fuel tank, breaking the plane apart and sending it 
into the sea. 

Nevertheless, witness accounts of seeing a streak of light in the sky around 
the time of the crash have continued to aid conspiracy theories that a 
missile could have brought down the plane. 

The safety board said that 670 witnesses reported seeing something judged to 
be related to the accident and of those 258 saw something that fit the 
definition of a streak of light. 

Most of those streak of light accounts were consistent with the path of the 
accident plane, the witness review group said. 

There were 38 accounts of a streak of light rising straight up, or nearly so, 
but these accounts seemed to be inconsistent with the calculated flight path 
of the plane. 

The safety board said some FBI interviewers had framed their questions in a 
manner that emphasized aspects relevant to a missile investigation. 

The FBI conducted the original interviews without safety board investigators 
being present because it initially believed it was dealing with a criminal 
probe. 

NTSB's witness group said a at least a handful of witness accounts could be 
cited to support a variety of theories about the accident. 

"No study of the eyewitness accounts alone can prove or refute the contention 
that the crash of TWA flight 800 was due to any particular cause,'' it said. 
 
 

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