Recovered wing shows evidence of fire
Finding more bodies unlikely
August 7, 1996
HAMPTON BAYS, New York (CNN) -- Divers retrieved a large fire-damaged section of TWA Flight 800's right wing Wednesday in what investigators hailed as a significant find.
"That wing is an enormous and important piece of wreckage," said Robert Francis, vice chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board.
Authorities, however, refused to draw conclusions from the fire damage. The wing could have been charred by burning fuel on the surface of the ocean after the crash, not during an explosion, Francis said.
A somber Francis also relayed heart-wrenching news to families of the victims: Divers are "increasingly unlikely" to recover any of the 35 bodies still missing.
"There are not the kinds of pieces of wreckage out there any more where we can expect to find bodies," Francis said.
Francis' comments came three weeks to the day that TWA Flight 800 burst into flames, killing all 230 people aboard. Investigators have recovered 195 bodies, but it's been more than two days since the last body was found.
Fire damage near fuselage
The fire-damaged wing measures 75 feet in length and weighs about 20,000 pounds. The most heavily burned areas were at the end near the fuselage, Francis said.
Investigators aboard the Navy's chartered ship USS Grasp are attempting to break down the wing so it can be safely taken to the Long Island hangar where other wreckage is being kept.
"It's so big that it's a problem moving it logistically," Francis said.
Most significant, Francis said, was that seven of eight so-called fuse pins were still attached to the wing. Fuse pins are designed to break and allow the engines to fall away in case of trouble. The attached pins could mean the engines separated in some other manner.
Authorities hope to have the wing in the hangar by Thursday morning. The tip of the right wing was among the first pieces of evidence found floating in the water in the days just after the crash.
Francis said the left wing has been located underwater. It will likely be raised in the coming days, as will two engines and a piece of a third. About 25 to 30 percent of the plane's wreckage has now been recovered.
Earlier Wednesday, crews brought ashore the cockpit's sheared-off windshield, a piece of fuselage with nine windows and a stainless-steel toilet, among other items. Francis said the items are on the way to the hangar.
Francis said there were "no great developments" within the hangar. However, officials for the first time released video footage of the wreckage they've collected.
Assistant FBI Director James K. Kallstrom repeated a request for anyone with information about the crash to contact the FBI at 1-888-245-4636 or via the Internet at www.fbi.gov.
"If there's any citizens out there whose memories have been jogged or who have thought of something they think would be helpful ... I would encourage them to please communicate with us," Kallstrom said.
The Federal Aviation Administration, meanwhile, said it plans to issue a directive requiring all fuel pumps on Boeing 747s to be closely inspected for corrosion in electrical connectors.
Boeing determined that a May 1995 fire aboard a JAL 747 at a Manila airport was triggered by such corrosion, which caused a small hole in the pump's casing and allowed fuel to leak out.
FAA officials stressed there is no connection between the directive and the crash of TWA Flight 800.
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