TWA probe: Still no conclusions
August 7, 1996
HAMPTON BAYS, New York (CNN) -- Three weeks to the day after a July 17 explosion sent TWA Flight 800 into the Atlantic Ocean, speculation continues to center around the theory that a bomb brought down the Paris-bound Boeing 747.
But officials insist that no conclusions should be drawn from the information released so far by their investigation.
Appearing on CNN Wednesday, National Transportation Safety Board Vice Chairman Robert Francis cited the 1991 loss of a Boeing 767 over Thailand as an example of a case where authorities were convinced a bomb was involved, but were wrong.  (221K AIFF or WAV sound) In the Thai crash a computer glitch threw a thrust reverser into operation during cruise, tearing the plane apart in a violent spin.
While adamantly refusing to come to any conclusion over the finding, Francis did confirm Wednesday that the newly recovered altimeter from jumbo jet's cockpit was frozen on a reading of 13,100 feet. The plane is believed to have been at an altitude of 13,700 feet when it first encountered trouble.
Francis also would not be drawn into making anything of the finding that many of the glass faces to instruments in the cockpit were intact when found on the sea floor.
Francis called the unbroken dials "another piece of the puzzle."
In another broadcast interview, Francis said the search for bodies would continue, but he did not hold out much hope that the remaining 35 bodies would be found.
"It's been a long time," said Francis. "I wouldn't get my hopes up too high."
So far, the bodies of 195 of the 230 people aboard the jet have been recovered.
Salvage goes on
The search for wreckage went into its 22nd day Wednesday, with crews continuing to haul debris out of the ocean from several locations.
The Navy said weather conditions were good and all diving and recovery operations were continuing.
The heavy-lift ship USS Grapple was moving to a massive debris field where the front section of the aircraft has been identified.
A federal investigator told CNN Tuesday that a Navy ship has identified luggage from the cargo hold of Flight 800 on the ocean floor in a pile of debris west of the main wreckage areas.
Also Tuesday, Navy Rear Adm. Edward Kristensen showed a press conference diagrams detailing the sections of the plane already recovered and where they were found. Kristensen highlighted a section from the forward cargo hold that, along with the newly discovered pile of luggage, appears to be one of the first parts of the plane to land in the Atlantic.
The findings suggest an explosion blew open the cargo hold, spewing the contents through the underbelly of the Boeing 747, before the aircraft broke up and hit the water.
But authorities say conclusive proof of a bomb, such as explosive residue on wreckage, has not been found.
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