Flight 800: Accident Or Terrorist Attack? - Part 3
Bogey At Seven O'Clock: Report Supports Missile Theory But Not 'Friendly Fire'

By Joey Mac Lellan for Suffolk Life Newspapers

December 16, 1998

Most of the evidence collected by the National Transportation Safety Bureau (NTSB) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) indicates that TWA Flight 800 was destroyed by one or more heat-seeking Stinger missiles, according to Commander William S. Donaldson, USN (Retired), the author of the revised 124-page "Interim Report on the Crash of TWA Flight 800 and the Action of the NTSB and the FBI." In an earlier interview, Donaldson, a member of the Associated Retired Aviation Professionals (ARAP) group, said that three U.S. manufactured Man Portable Air Defense System (MANPADS) Stinger missiles have been reported missing from Afghanistan. Under President Ronald Reagan, Afghan rebel forces began defeating Russian forces because the United States supplied them with hand-held ground-to-air missiles (such as the Stinger) to cut down on helicopter support for Russian troops.

The commander noted that authorities knew the Stingers were smuggled into Canada and had "crossed the U.S.-Canadian boarder," but then contact was lost with the "Iranian-connected group believed to have stolen the Stingers." He added that the use of a hand-held Stinger was initially dismissed because it was believed the Stinger did not have the range to hit Flight 800 and because the amount of blast damage appeared to be more than a Stinger would do. The commander said he has since learned from "military experts" that a Stinger will go as high as 15,000 feet and depending on programming could cause extensive damage, especially if more than one was used on the same target. Flight 800 exploded at about 13,800 feet, killing 235 passengers and crew members.

Donaldson also noted that the missiles could be "modified Soviet (surface to air missile) SAM 6," which could be carried on any ocean-going vessel as covered deck cargo. Information on the physical breakup sequence of the plane, the way the plane was scattered throughout the Debris Field, shrapnel evidence found in the passengers, and the final recordings taken from the Flight Recorder (Black Box) all prove the plane was destroyed by at least one missile blast, said Donaldson. The most important portion to the puzzle, he said, is that so many eyewitnesses have explained the same, or similar, descriptions of the incident. In the report, Donaldson notes, "If one assumes that a 'reliable' witness can report an observation correctly in only one out of five observations, then there is only a 20% probability that an event reported by such a witness would have actually taken place as described ... With 40 such independent and similarly 'reliable' witnesses, the probability rises to 99.99% that the event reported did indeed take place." According to Donaldson, "More than 150 credible witnesses - including several scientists and business executives - have told the FBI and military experts they saw a missile destroy TWA Flight 800."

Most of the descriptions of the incident coincide with the following: Witnesses reported seeing a man piloting a dark 25-foot to 35-foot "cigarette-type," round-hull speed boat that came into the Moriches Inlet from the Great South Bay and idled for a time. Just prior to the FL800 explosion the boat then sped off in a southeast direction. Some 20 minutes later, said Donaldson, witnesses for more than 20 miles described seeing a missile going up just before the plane exploded in the air. Donaldson hypothesized that the speed boat traveled about seven nautical miles into the Atlantic Ocean and waited for FL800 to get closer. As the plane approached the boat's location, Donaldson suggested that he fired the heat-seeking missile at the nose of the plane which had its belly exposed at an estimated 30 degree climb into the sky. The commander suggests that the missile was attracted to the refrigeration and air exhaust vents near the fuselage and left wing but struck the nose instead, and a second missile appears to have struck the wing, causing a severe explosion into the side of the passenger and Center Wing Tank portions of the plane which then resulted in a large, fiery petroleum explosion. The night Flight 800 was shot down, Major Fred Meyer was piloting an Air National Guard HH60 helicopter between 200 and 300 feet above ground level, heading south to Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach. "He described it as transcribing a smooth, slightly descending arc from right to left streaking across the sky terminating in a 'hard or high velocity ordinance explosion,' followed by a second 'bright white ordinance explosion,' followed some seconds later by a petroleum fireball that grew to a very large dimension."

Donaldson notes, Major Meyer possesses "unique training and experience" since he was awarded the Distinguish Flying Cross after obtaining more than 40 saves as a Navy combat search and rescue pilot off the coast of North Vietnam. Meyer's co-pilot, Captain Chris Baur, said, "Almost due south [of the helicopter] there was a hard white light, like burning pyrotechnics, in level flight ... it was the wrong color for flares. It struck an object coming from the right and made it explode." Baur said he "told officials repeatedly that I thought a missile hit the plane." According to the report, Tom Dougherty, walking with friends along the beach in Hampton Bays, "heard a crackling thunder-like noise, followed ... by another thunder-like noise at which time they observed a missile ... arcing out to sea. After losing sight of the missile, they saw a bright white light or glow above the cloud or haze layer at sea followed by the observation of burning pieces of aircraft flopping out of the sky."