Did U.S. Gov’t Lie about TWA Flight 800 Crash? Ex-Investigators Seek Probe as New Evidence Emerges
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Seventeen years ago, TWA Flight 800 crashed off Long Island, killing all 230 people aboard. The official government investigation blamed mechanical failure, but now a group of former investigators are petitioning the National Transportation Safety Board to reopen the probe, saying the original report was falsified. Was the plane accidentally shot down by the U.S. Navy conducting a nearby exercise, or was it a terrorist attack? We speak to the filmmakers behind a new documentary on the crash, "TWA Flight 800," former CBS News producer Kristina Borjesson and Tom Stalcup, a physicist and co-founder of Flight 800 Independent Researchers Organization.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We begin with a look at shocking new claims about an airplane crash that happened 17 years ago. More than 200 people were killed when TWAFlight 800 burst into flames just minutes after taking off from New York on July 17th, 1996. The cause of that explosion has been in dispute ever since. Government investigators say it was most likely triggered by a failure in the plane’s electrical system. But many witnesses say they saw a streak a light move toward the plane before the explosion.
Now, six investigators who participated in the original probe of the crash have come forward to request that the case be reopened. They have petitioned the National Transportation Safety Board to reactivate its investigation. Their stories are featured in a new film directed by Kristina Borjesson, a former CBS News producer.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We continue our coverage over shocking new claims about the crash of TWA Flight 800 that killed 230 people on July 17th, 1996. The plane burst into flames off the coast of New York just minutes after takeoff. A government investigation concluded the cause of the explosion was a mechanical failure. But on Wednesday, a group of investigators who participated in that probe submitted a petition to the National Transportation Safety Board asking them to reopen the case.
The investigators say they have, quote, "reviewed the FAA radar evidence along with new evidence not available to the NTSB during the official investigation and [they] contend that the NTSB’s probable cause determination is erroneous and should be reconsidered." Among those who have come forward is former senior NTSB accident investigator Hank Hughes. He is featured in a new film called TWA Flight 800 that premieres on the premium TV channel EPIX next month.
HANK HUGHES: My report, which was 496 pages in length, or thereabouts, with photographic supplement, was cut and amended without my knowledge. When I did find out about it, I complained. Nothing was done. We were required to provide a factual report, but ordered not to write an analysis.
KRISTINA BORJESSON: What? Could you say that again?
HANK HUGHES: We were directed to write a factual report, but not an analysis.
KRISTINA BORJESSON: What would your analysis have been?
HANK HUGHES: The primary—primary conclusion was the explosive forces came from outside the airplane, not the center fuel tank.
TOM STALCUP: Would that statement have been in your analysis?
HANK HUGHES: If I got the right one.
AMY GOODMAN: That was former NTSB senior accident investigator Hank Hughes from the new documentary, TWA Flight 800, which premieres on EPIX July 17th, exactly 17 years after the crash.
For more, we’re joined here in New York by the film’s director, investigative reporter and former CBS producer Kristina Borjesson. And we’re also joined by Tom Stalcup, the film’s co-producer. He’s also a physicist and co-founder of Flight 800 Independent Researchers Organization.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Tom just made it over here from The Today Show, where he was interviewed. Kristina Borjesson, it has been a long haul for you—
KRISTINA BORJESSON: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: —from investigating this for CBS News, where you were ultimately forced out as you tried this investigation. Talk about the significance of the latest information and why the investigators are petitioning to reopen this investigation.