Easily one of the most notorious disasters of the 1990s was the crash of TWA Flight 800 in July 1996, which killed 230 people on their way from New York's JFK Airport to Paris. The probable cause of the crash was determined to be an accidental fuel tank explosion, but a new documentary is challenging that theory.
But what makes this film more intriguing than your average conspiracy theory documentary are the people involved with it: former members of the official investigation into the crash who are stepping up to refute the National Transportation Safety Board's explanation of things.
They're saying that new evidence indicates the plane was taken down by an outside source, a theory that has been discounted several times over the years. Critics have theorized a missile either came from a U.S. Navy vessel or terrorists in a small boat.
Here's an ABC News report on the new film, called simply TWA 800:
"We didn't find any part of the airplane that indicated a mechanical failure," one of the whistleblowers says in a trailer for the film. The former officials allege the explosion came from outside the plane, though they don't speculate any further on the original source.
Another of the whistleblowers, former senior accident investigator with the NTSB Hank Hughes, said in a preview of the documentary that FBI agents were spotted on surveillance cameras going through the hangar where the crash evidence was kept "in the wee hours of the morning... for purposes unknown."
The AP reports that several of these investigators are now seeking a new probe into the crash, and have filed a petition with the NTSB asking for one. From their story:
The former investigators calling for a new probe say new evidence that a missile may have taken down the jet includes analysis of radar of the jetliner.
Speculation of a missile strike began almost immediately after the crash. Theories that an errant missile may have been fired from a U.S. military vessel were widely refuted, but conjecture about a shoulder-fired missile launched by terrorists in a small boat has never completely gone away.
The petitioners contend that the testimony of more than 200 witnesses who reported seeing streaks of light headed toward the plane should be reconsidered. The NTSB said after the first investigation that it found no evidence of a missile strike. It explained that what witnesses likely saw was the jetliner pitching upward in the first few moments after the explosion, but some witnesses still maintain that the streak of light they saw emanated from the waterline and zoomed upward toward the plane.
NTSB officials today stood by the facts of their investigation, saying it remains one of the most thorough ever conducted. The "missile theory" surfaced early on in the investigation, and law enforcement officials initially believed a criminal act took the plane down, but they later backed away from that possibility.
The documentary airs on the EPIX premium television channel in July.
Photo credit AP