In the months following the tragic crash of TWA Flight 800 the FBI conducted an extensive investigation and interviewed over 700 eyewitnesses. Most of these witnesses only saw the massive fireball as it descended from nearly 3 miles high. However, nearly 100 of these eyewitnesses saw a streak rise from the surface of the ocean or the visible horizon and ascend upward, ending in a bright white flash. Some saw multiple white flashes. Seconds later a secondary explosion erupted in a massive orange fireball that fell into the ocean.
The FBI and Suffolk County police selected 11 eyewitnesses for follow up interviews. At these interviews, they took the witnesses out to the locations where they witnessed the crash and recorded their positions with a GPS receiver and then asked them to describe the point at which they first saw the streak of light and using a hand-bearing compass, they determined the relative position of the streak to their location. From this information, they plotted the origin of the streaks and determined that there were 2 separate origin points and 2 separate streaks. This information was contained in letters from both the FBI missile team and the Suffolk County Police.
Using Google Earth each of the eyewitnesses was located by their GPS coordinates. They are designated on the graphic by their witness number or name. The coordinates of the FBI's suspected firing locations are plotted as "Shooter 1 and Shooter 2". A suspected missile flight path was drawn between the origin points and Flight 800. The FBI recorded the magnetic compass direction identified by each witness. The Magnetic direction was converted to True bearing and plotted on the graphic. Also, Flight 800 is located by the position of its last radar return. Using this data, a line was drawn that connects each witness to the flight path of the streak. For a high resolution Acrobat version, click here.
In addition to the witnesses identified by the FBI, there were 4 other significant witnesses who were extensively interview by Cdr. Donaldson. These witnesses had excellent viewpoints. Their coordinates are also plotted on the graphic along with their sightlines. These witnesses are identified by name.
A brief summary of each of these eyewitness sightings follows along with an witness eye-view perspective. In the graphics that follow, we used Google Earth to locate the positions of Flight 800, the suspected firing locations and the eyewitnesses. Google Earth allowed us to view the perspective of each eyewitness and we attempted to simulate what they described they saw by drawing in a flight path that was consistent with their report. In some cases the witnesses did not see the streak for the entire flight but we drew in the entire streak to connect it back to the suspected firing locations. In each case, the witnesses descriptions were consistent with missiles fired from one of these two locations and in the case of Meyer and Baur, each of them saw a different missile because each had an obstruction in the center of the cockpit that limited their view. Some will ask, "if there were two missiles, why didn't everyone see two streaks?". There are two reasons for this. First, they were not fired simultaneously and many may have missed the first one. Second, those who saw the first missile were probably mesmerized by the streak and did not notice a second streak seconds later. This is a common problem when the brain sees something unusual, it focuses its attention completely on trying to figure it out, to the exclusion of surrounding distractions. Lastly, a number of eyewitnesses did report seeing multiple streaks, but they were not part of the FBI triangulation or were not interviewed by Cdr. Donaldson.
Paul Angelides, Witness 83 - After work on July 17, 1996, I went to our ocean front summer rental house to have dinner with my wife and 1 year old son. After dinner my wife was bathing our son before putting him to bed so I decided to go to the ocean side deck to enjoy the view. As I walked through the sliding doors to the deck a red phosphorescent object in the sky caught my attention. The object was quite high in the sky (about 50-60 degrees) and was slightly to the west and off shore of my position. At first it appeared to be moving slowly, almost hanging and descending, and was leaving a white smoke trail. The smoke trail was short and the top of the smoke trail has a clockwise, parabolic shaped hook towards the shore. My first reaction was that I was looking at a marine distress flare which had been fired from a boat. I said to myself, someone must be in trouble.
I quickly realized that the object was too large and then began moving too fast to be a distress flare. I followed the object as it moved out over the ocean in the direction of the horizon. I lost sight of the object, as it was about 10 degrees above the horizon. In the same area of the sky out over the ocean, I then saw a series of flashes, one in the sky and another closer to the horizon. I remember straining to see what was happening as there seemed to be a lot of chaos out there. There was a dot on the horizon near the action, which I perceived as a boat. The flashes were then followed by a huge fireball, which dropped very quickly into the sea. I yelled to my wife. Come here quickly you've got to see this.
My first reaction was that I had seen a military exercise that went awry. Then the sounds started. There was a very loud and prolonged boom, which reminded me of thunder rolling above the house. The noise continued and concluded with a series of two distinctly louder bursts and a final extremely loud burst. The sounds shook the house. My wife who was on the bathroom floor drying our son from his bath felt the floor shaking as she heard the noise and I heard her cry out "what is going on?". After some silence there were two more extremely loud explosion like bursts of sound which also shook the house. I thought to myself that I had witnessed some big weapons being used.
I noticed several smoke patterns, which remained in the sky after the action took place. In the area where I lost sight of the object there was a long, wide, white cigar shaped cloud, which extended parallel to the horizon and eastward to the point where I had seen the huge fireball erupt. At the eastern end of the white cloud was a wide black smoke trail, which followed the same path as the fireball, which had dropped to the horizon. The path of the black smoke left a trail that was slightly to the east of a vertical drop. There was also a thin white, parabolic contrail, which extended upward and westward from the white cigar shaped cloud. FBI 302 Form. # 83
Major Fred Meyer and Capt. Baur, flying their Air National Guard helicopter - Witness 657 & 658. Chris Baur: "Almost due south [of the helicopter], there was a hard white light, like burning pyrotechnics, in level flight," Capt. Chris Baur told investigators. "I was trying to figure out what it was. It was the wrong color for flares. It struck an object coming from the right and made it explode." Two NY Air National Guard pilots with the best view of the crash of TWA 800 ....... one believes the airliner was struck by a fast-moving object coming from the east, while the other saw a fiery trail from the west. "I saw a track of light and saw a hard explosion, then another explosion," - "told officials, repeatedly that I thought a missile hit the plane." FBI 302 Form. # 658
Fred Meyer: Meyer's attention was first called to the area ...."by a streak of light moving from my right (west) to my left (east)," the same direction as the TWA flight, he said.....Baur, on the left side of the cockpit, saw a streak moving from left to right toward the approaching TWA aircraft before the initial explosion. The streak of light that Meyer saw .....was red-orange in color .....there was what Meyer describes as a hard, very sudden, yellowish-white explosion that looked identical to the detonation of an anti-aircraft shell ....."It left a cloud of smoke just like a flak explosion does," Meyer said. "One to two seconds later, there was a second, hard explosion almost pure white in color ... almost immediately there was a third explosion and fireball"....Baur also saw three explosions ...he contends that they started from left (east) and went to the right (west).... The call sign that night for Baur and Meyer was Jolly 14. The helicopter (a HH-60G Pave Hawk) was descending through 200 feet above the airport when Baur's eye was caught by some sort of light. According to the crew, Baur called out over the intercom to his flight engineer, MSgt. Dennis Richardson, "Hey Denny, is that pyro?" Within seconds he saw a hard explosion. Richardson, shifting in his seat from behind Baur, did not see the streak but did see the explosions. : "I know what I saw. I saw an ordnance explosion. And whatever I saw, the explosion of the fuel was not the initiator of the event. It was one of the results. Something happened before that which was the initiator of the disaster.'' - Frederick C. Meyer, An Air National Guard helicopter pilot who witnessed the explosion of TWA Flight 800; 7/29/97; Riverside Press. FBI 302 Form. #657
Mike Wire - Witness 571 - "Wire was looking south-southwest toward the beach. At approximately 8:45 pm he was a white light that was traveling skyward from the ground at approximately a 40 degree angle. He described the white light as a light that sparkled and thought it was some type of fireworks. Wire stated the white light "zig-zagged" as it traveled upward and at the apex of its travel, they white light "arched over" and disappeared from view. He estimated the white light was in view for approximately 15 seconds and its speed was consistent with the speed that normal fireworks might travel. He advised the white light first came into view just above the roof top of the fourth house west of the public parking area on Dune Road. He stated the white light traveled outward from the beach in a south-southeasterly direction. He stated two or three seconds after the white light disappeared, he saw an orange light that appeared to be a fireball in the sky approximately one-half mile away. Hew as unable to estimate the height or elevation of this fireball due to its distance from him. The fireball descended at approximately a 30 degree angle and left a fire trail burning behind it. According to Wire, the fireball disappeared behind the second house to the west of the public parking area located at Beach Lane and Dune Road. FBI 302 Form. #571
Witness 649 - " stated object number one appeared to be a bright white light with a reddish pink aura surrounding it." "compared the moving object to a "fire work"." "initially, object one ascended almost vertically" "object one evolved into a "squiggly" pattern going up vertically and increasing in velocity and then arced off to the right in a south westerly direction." "observed a second stationary object (object number two) that appeared to glitter in the sky. Object number one was heading toward object number two" "object number one appeared like it was initially going to slightly miss object number two unless it made a dramatic correction at the last moment." "in less than a second he believed object number one impacted with object number two." "observed a white "puff" (white flash)" " out of the puff came two objects that arched upward from the initial impact trailing smoke." "the objects then turned into large rectangular balls of fire descending at an angle" FBI 302 Form. #649
Witness 364 - "FBI Flare sightings plotting report of selected witnesses" "These locations have been used in providing possible locations of a MANPAD launch tube or "Stinger" eject motor for acoustic side-scan sonar and possible recovery." "These locations are within the preliminary envelope of foreign MANPADs obtained from the Defense Intelligence Agency which might have been used against TWA Flight 800. These locations are just outside of the preliminary envelope obtained from the U.S. Army for the U.S. "Stinger" missile system. The Army will provide a more accurate envelope after careful modeling." FBI 302 Form. #364
Witness 521 - "saw an object which appeared to be a flare, round and orangy-red in color. It left a smoke trail of the same color, density and thickness in its wake that disappeared as the object continued to ascend. It rose from the southeast from their position and arched slightly at an approximate 70 degree angle while it made the ascent from east to west. The object traveled for approximately 3-5 seconds until it erupted into a ball of fire. It did not disappear before this eruption and made no sound that they could hear. It then broke into three separate balls of fire and descended to the ocean. It fell straight down until it disappeared from sight. The entire episode lasted approximately 10 seconds. She could not gauge as to how far in the distance this incident occurred from her but thought that the object may have traveled 1 to 2 miles vertically." FBI 302 Form. #521
Witness 496/534 - "She observed what she thought was a flare ascending in the sky. When first observed the object it was already in the sky above the tree line. She advised that the object was orange, slightly more brilliant at its top. The object traveled from her left to her right in a straight line at a steep angle, which she described as more vertical than horizontal. The object did not leave a trail. She observed the object traveling for approximately 10-15 seconds when a large explosion occurred just above and to the right of the object. She does not remember if the object stopped or disappeared before the explosion but stated that the explosion was intense orange and red colors that expanded in a ball shaped mass. She stated that the "ball" of orange and red broke into two objects, and the two objects fell outward and down. She had the impression that one piece was larger than the other, which she estimated to be a 40% and 60% split of the original fire ball object.. She stated that it took less time for the object to fall that it took for the flare-like object to go up and reach its maximum altitude. Approximately 5 seconds after the objects disappeared from view behind the tree line, she heard a loud boom which she described as sounding similar to an intensely loud thunder rumble." FBI 302 Form. #496 FBI 302 Form. #534
Witness 641/642 - "They observed what looked like a flame rising up over the Atlantic Ocean, then arching in an easterly direction. They then reported seeing a flash of bright white light followed by a large red and orange fire type glow. Two items engulfed in the fiery glow were falling down, disappearing behind sand dunes in the horizon. ... They said what they saw appeared to be a flare being fired from a boat in the bay. They stated that the flare did not appear to be an ordinary flare, and it could have been something like fireworks, but the burst at the end of the flare seemed pretty unusual. It was not a normal boat flare that they are used to. They said the flare disappeared into black smoke behind a dune and it burst pretty low over the horizon. The boat that these individuals thought that the flare came from was a Pro-line center console occupied by two white males." FBI 302 Form. #641 kb
Witness 527 - " looking south when he saw a white line tracing up into the sky. He does not remember seeing the line come all the way from the horizon. The line went straight vertical the entire time for a total of 2 seconds. He remembered thinking it was a flare as he had just purchased some flares sometime earlier. The highest point of the "flare" white line was about one foot above the horizon and the line was consistent. At the top of the white line appeared little red light or orangish-red circle which hovered or floated for a second, after which, a big dark red explosion appeared about an inch below the little red light. This bigger explosion was about a quarter inch in length. It hovered for a second, appeared to break apart from its round shape, and fell to the horizon in approximately two seconds. As the bigger explosion came down it became less red and more smoky - grayer about half of the way down. The big explosion came down along pretty much the same line as the white line had gone up. The entire incident from the time the white line first appeared until the explosion met the horizon took approximately 10 to 15 seconds. FBI 302 Form. #527
Witness 694 - " Was facing south when he saw a red flash in the distance. He advised that the flash appeared to be 200-300 feet over the water. The flash traveled upward with a very slight arc to the water. The flash traveled upward with a very slight arc to the right. The flash was to the right of his position. One eighth of the upward distance, a portion of the flash broke off and descended to the left. He advised that the main portion of the flash continued to travel upward. When the flash reached its highest point, it turned into a blackish gray smoke cloud. The cloud remained stationary, then eventually vanished. He did not hear or feel anything. After the incident, he vaguely recalled observing a red sailboat approximately one mile south. Shortly before the explosion, a brown 18-foot speedboat and a 16-foot black speedboat were racing southwest. About a half hour before the explosion, he observed a white, cigarette type speedboat that was approximately 35 feet long. The boat was speeding along the shore from east to west toward the Shinnecock Inlet. He noted the boat was traveling much too fast for the area. FBI 302 Form. #694
Google Earth Tool
Finally, we have created a Web version of our Google Earth simulations that will show you the view and perspective of each of the eye witnesses. These views do not have the streak drawn in but show the altitude of Flight 800 from the perspective of the viewer. Flight 800 is indicated by a red dot connected to the horizon by a white line. The white line is simply used to show where Flight 800 is located, it is not supposed to be a streak or missile trail, but it is necessary to show the height of Flight 800 above the horizon. You must have Google Earth loaded on your computer to use this link. Click here to download Google Earth. Be aware that Google Earth does not work well on slow old computers. Click here to download the Eyewitness Views. This link will open a window that asks you if you want to "open" or "Save" the zip file. Click on "Open". This will open a Zip folder. Double click on the "doc.kml" file. This will start Google Earth and automatically load the Eyewitness locations. You can then use Google Earth to pan, zoom and change the perspectives in any way you wish.
Evidence of a Missile
Flight 800 Database
Bomb -------- 4%
Fuel Tank --- 14%