Bodies, debris recovered from TWA crash site
No survivors reported
July 18, 1996
About 100 bodies had been recovered and authorities had no reports of survivors among the 228 people aboard the jumbo jet, which took off from JFK International Airport in New York City minutes before the explosion.
At least 40 of the passengers were French. Others were from Italy and Britain. In Paris, French President Jacques Chirac issued a statement saying "the terrible accident makes me feel deeply shocked."
The cause of the explosion was not clear. U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno told reporters there have been "some calls" claiming responsibility but there are "no indications" at this time of terrorism.
"The currents out there are very mild, which is working in the favor of rescuers," said Rep. Michael Forbes, who represents the East Moriches area in Congress. "We saw a massive debris field," U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Robert Kramek told reporters during a briefing carried live on CNN. (191K AIFF or WAV sound)
Plane pieces found
Coast Guard official Glenn Rosenholm said one large piece of the fuselage had also been recovered from the search area, which covers about 240 square miles in water up to 120 feet deep.
CNN's Krys Murphy, who was aboard one of the recovery boats, reported a wing tip and other "large chunks" from the plane were recovered along with "a lot of small bits of debris."
'Mayday' call heard
The National Transportation Safety Board dispatched investigating teams to the scene, and NTSB Chairman James Hall said the NTSB would be working with the FBI to investigate the case. "If at any point we have clear evidence that a criminal act is involved, we would defer to the FBI," Hall told CNN in a live interview.
A FBI statement said a joint FBI/New York Police Department Joint Terrorist Task Force "will assume leadership of the (crash) investigation." The Task Force "is not prepared to declare the incident to be terrorist-related," the statement said.
Kramek said a Coast Guard cutter in the area heard a distress call that appeared to have come from TWA Flight 800, which dropped from radar screens Wednesday night about 8:40 p.m. (127K AIFF or WAV sound)
Eyewitnesses on the ground and the crew of a C-130 Air National Guard training flight reported seeing a fireball at the same moment.
The plane taxied for takeoff at JFK Airport shortly after 8 p.m. Wednesday, about an hour behind schedule. Prior to departure repairs were made on an instrument that helps determine engine power, Washington sources told CNN. The device known as an EEP-ER was mounted on the right side of the plane.
Knowledgeable sources say the device would not have caused the crash of the plane, but could be linked to some other problem. Flight 800 is believed to have been airborne by 8:15 p.m.
More than 150 friends and family members gathered at a trauma center set up at JFK Airport by TWA. A similar trauma center was also set up at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, the plane's destination.
TWA Flight 800 Passenger Info
In the U.S.
Flight 800 carried 212 passengers (29 in first class and 183 in coach) and a crew of 17 (three in the cockpit and 14 flight attendants), TWA said.
At daybreak Thursday, normal operations at JFK Airport had resumed.
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