Monday July 17 4:04 PM ET 

         Group Sues FBI, NTSB for TWA Flight 800 Data 

         By Andy Sullivan

         WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A group of independent investigators who
         remain convinced a missile brought down a TWA jumbo jet off New York
         four years ago filed suit on Monday against the government alleging several
         agencies have refused to disclose findings about the crash.

         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
         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

         But the group which filed the suit in Springfield, Massachusetts District Court
         insists the disaster was caused by one or several heat-seeking missiles and
         have charged the government with hiding or altering data to fit its conclusion.

         Dozens of the 755 witnesses interviewed by the FBI shortly after the TWA
         800 crash reported seeing a streak of light rising from the ground or 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 that filed the suit.

         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. Over a year after the accident the FBI officially abandoned the theory
         that a bomb or missile was involved.

         A final hearing on the crash is scheduled for August 22-23.

         A spokesman for Fairness and Accuracy in Media, a media watchdog group,
         said that his organization was planning to file a similar suit, seeking the identity
         of 30 ships in the area on the night of the crash. 

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