Flight 800: Accident Or Terrorist Attack? Part 4
Was There A Cover-up?

By Joey Mac Lellan for Suffolk Life Newspapers

December 17, 1998

There are numerous details surrounding the July 17, 1996 downing of TWA Flight 800 that do not conform to the mechanical failure theory, presented by the National Transportation Safety Bureau (NTSB) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), according to a report authored by Commander William Donaldson, a career crash investigator before retiring from the Navy. The most conspicuous question still unanswered by those making the charge that there is a cover-up is, Why? Why would the government cover-up a situation where terrorists shot down an American airliner? Why would the government cover up a military accident? Under normal circumstances, the NTSB would be the primary investigative agency on a commercial aircraft crash, but within hours of the incident, the FBI flooded Long Island with about 400 agents.

Over the course of the investigation, the FBI said it conducted some 7,000 interviews, followed up on about 3,000 leads, and 2,000 chemical swabs from the wreck. The FBI concluded there was "No evidence [of] high explosive damage [or] explosion of a missile warhead." "The investigation was not limited strictly to terrorist motives. All avenues of potential criminality were explored with negative results," said FBI spokesman Joseph Valiquette. Downplaying the missile theory, the NTSB and FBI are claiming that the Center Wing Tank exploded because of a spark from a wire running through or near the tank, despite the fact that TWA records show that the tank was empty and that both agencies had information proving that the Jet-A Fuel, like kerosene, "will not easily light with a match unless the fuel is misted in the atmosphere or aerated by a fuel injector." Yet, Tom McSweeney, director of Aircraft Certification Service for the FAA, stated on national television, "What we have said to the NTSB in not adopting [its] immediate recommendation is that we believe there is a technical debate that needs to take place." Donaldson offers numerous pages of technical information and eyewitness accounts suggesting a cover-up of some kind in his 124-page "Interim Report on the Crash of TWA Flight 800 and the Actions of the NTSB and the FBI."

One such entry in the report states that "Sikorsky aircraft [a manufacturer of helicopters for the military] in Stratford [Connecticut] indicated that Sikorskys radar at its airport picked up an air to air missile. The radar was on tape and was turned over to the FBI. The report further states, former Assistant FBI Director James Kallstrom said, "We do have information that there was something in the sky. A number of people have described it similarly. It was ascending." The official NTSB and FBI position, however, is "there is no evidence of a criminal act." Kallstrom, who retired last December, could not be reached for comment. Valiquette declined to comment on anything in the report, claiming the FBI has not read the report. The FBI is also reluctant to comment because of the civil litigation filed by family members of the victims and because the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled hearings because the NTSB complained that FBI acted "inappropriately" during the investigation. According to Donaldson, most of the evidence collected by the NTSB and the FBI indicates that the Boeing 747 was destroyed by one or more missiles, killing 236 passengers and crew members. Government officials broke investigation protocol from the beginning, said Donaldson.

"The Coast Guard rescue log shows a request for assistance was made to Weeks Marine [one of the largest salvage operations on the East Coast] within an hour of the crash." One of Weeks large salvage barges with one of the largest revolving salvage cranes in the western hemisphere happened to be in transit near Long Island at the time, said Donaldson. The barge was "capable of supporting 50 hard hat divers with multiple cranes, precision grid positioning equipment as well as precision anchoring system [and] had a huge storage capacity for debris." Donaldsons report states, "Phone calls between Weeks Marine executives and FAA officials in Washington the night of the crash led Weeks Marine to believe the FAA was extremely anxious to recover the tail of the aircraft in order to get the flight recorders." By dawn the morning after the crash, the salvage crane was ready to begin work, but the company was advised to stand down. A state-of-the-art Cable Laying ship owned by AT&T was in the area "equipped with high tech underwater surveillance equipment and even a robot salvage submarine" early the morning after the FL800 exploded. "Despite the large capability advantage and ... professional salvage experience over the military units which eventually arrived at the scene, both AT&T and Weeks Marine were shouldered out of the way and never used." Donaldson comments, "The decision made by the government concerning the marine salvage effort are difficult to understand.

When a conscious choice is made to reject the best equipment and personnel for such a hazardous and complex job, the question arises as to why?" The Coast Guard and members of the 106th Air National Guard out of Westhampton Beach reported hearing the pingers from FL800Ős Flight Data Recorder (FDR) and the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) throughout the night, but "By the next day the pingers suddenly stopped." The FDR and CVR were not officially reported recovered for another seven days, despite the fact that Major Fred Meyer, flying a HH60 helicopter "repeatedly flew over the crash scene ... utilizing precision satellite navigating equipment on board, radioed the exact position where the wreckage containing the flight recorders could be found back." Meyer, stationed with the 106th Air National Guard was piloting the helicopter between 200 and 300 feet above the ground, heading south to Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach when the crash happened. Meyer reported that he radioed the coordinates to a C130 crew also out of Gabreski.