Divers bring up more bodies from TWA crash
Investigators hope cockpit will reveal clues to jet explosion
August 3, 1996
EAST MORICHES, New York (CNN) -- Divers returned Saturday to the site of TWA Flight 800's fiery crash, and recovered the bodies of four more of the 230 people who were killed when the jet plunged into the Atlantic Ocean on July 17.
The Suffolk County Medical Examiner said that 181 of the 188 bodies now recovered have been positively identified.
Divers returned to the waters when the morning fog lifted, concentrating their efforts on a debris field that included segments of the plane's forward section.
"We're very interested in the forward section of the aircraft, both in terms of recovery of victims and what happened to this airplane," said National Transportation Safety Board Vice Chairman Robert Francis on "CNN Saturday Morning."
The section of the Boeing 747's cockpit was identified Friday by a remote-controlled camera on the USS Grapple salvage ship off the shore of Long Island.
The search of the debris field -- 100 feet below the surface -- is progressing meticulously, Francis said, to ensure the safety of the divers.
Francis said Friday that the cockpit find was "significant," because it is "the nerve center of the aircraft," and said he expected more bodies to be found inside the wreckage. (381K AIFF or WAV sound)
Describing the find, Navy Rear Adm. Edward Kristensen said, "We think what we have is the forward windows, from one side to the other, wrapped around ... It is not yet known how much of the cockpit is there." (401K AIFF or WAV sound)
The positioning of the wreckage lends weight to the theory that the explosion first broke off the front part of the plane while the rest of the aircraft sped on for several more seconds before falling into the ocean, authorities said.
FBI Assistant Director James Kallstrom said the discovery of the cockpit section could yield vital clues.
"We hope that (clues) will come from somewhere within that first-class section, which would also include the nose and the cockpit," Kallstrom said.
No comment on possible terrorists
Kallstrom refused to comment on reports that the FBI was looking into Iranian terrorist groups in connection with the TWA investigation.
"We investigate Iranian terrorist cells all the time," Kallstrom said. "Iran is one of the terrorist nations, so described by the State Department along with the others that you know. So, obviously we have our ear close to the ground on any activity of known terrorists. What the nexus would be with this, if it is a terrorist act, I'm not going to discuss."
Recovery efforts, slowed by poor weather, resumed Friday with calmer seas. The improved weather allowed teams to transport pieces of debris from the Navy ships to port for examination.
The pieces included a section of about 15 windows from the rear of the plane. All of the wreckage is being taken to a nearby hangar where it's being combed for clues to the crash.
Wreckage has floated ashore as far away as Coney Island in Brooklyn, 60 miles west of the crash site. Officials say a badly burned pet cage, used to carry animals in the cargo hold, was found on the beach and turned over to the FBI.