Associated Retired Aviation Professionals

Springfield, MA

Flight 800 shrapnel remains a mystery.

On 3/29/05 Federal Judge Michael Ponsor issued his final judgment in Sephton V. FBI in favor of the FBI. The case involves a 4 year legal battle to obtain details about scores of mysterious metal fragments and pellets discovered during the autopsies of the 230 victims of the explosion of TWA Flight 800 in 1996.

It is astounding that in the 6 years since the freedom of information request was first made, that the FBI cannot find any of the results of the analysis of, arguably, the most significant and essential direct evidence about the explosion in the whole of the investigation.

In 2000 the NTSB finally concluded that an electrical spark “probably caused” a fuel tank explosion that wrecked the aircraft. Hundreds of supporters of this litigation contend that the never-released shrapnel analysis evidence is critically decisive because either the metal fragments match the metal from the fuel tank and the residues confirm explosive fuel residues, or they indicate
some other type of residue and source of explosion.

Judge Ponsor ruled that the FBI’s search for the critical documents met the legal standards for an “adequate search.” But he noted his “sharp disappointment” that in the final days of the lawsuit the FBI refused the judge’s request for a sworn statement regarding the one aspect of the search that was still in contention. In so denying the judge, it appears that no one at the FBI was willing to swear that that they knew or sincerely believed that the FBI had performed an adequate search that could have been expected to find substantially all responsive documents; i.e. that they at least looked in all
the right places.

In his 28 page ruling, Judge Ponsor conceded that the performance of the FBI overall had been very poor; refusals, delays, partial record releases and arbitrary reversals. That erratic FBI behavior and this ruling will do nothing to allay the skepticism of the many researchers and relatives of the victims who have carefully followed this very controversial investigation.

The Plaintiff has 60 days to decide whether to file an appeal.

Details about the litigation can be seen at:


  Robert E. Donaldson.  All rights reserved