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TWA crash investigator won't comment on explosives report

August 23, 1996
Web posted at: 2:00 p.m. EDT

(CNN) -- A key investigator of the crash of TWA Flight 800 declined Friday to confirm or deny a CNN report that a trace of explosives had been found in the wreckage of the passenger cabin.

Robert Francis of the National Transportation Safety Board also refused to comment on a similar report in The New York Times.

Seat graphic

The chemical PETN (pentaerythritol tetranitrate) was found on the right side of the forward passenger cabin between rows 15 and 25, a source told CNN.

The Paris-bound flight exploded and crashed on July 17, killing all 230 passengers and crew aboard. Francis said the NTSB and the FBI were still trying to determine if the explosion was caused by a bomb, a missile or mechanical failure. "We need more evidence," he said.

Jack McGeorge

PETN is often used in blasting caps or small detonators, explosives expert Jack McGeorge said on CNN Friday during a live interview. But he said it would not be the "majority explosive" in a bomb or missile warhead. (178K AIFF or WAV sound)

McGeorge described PETN as a "common" explosive that is "typically used together with other things." (159K AIFF or WAV sound)

When investigators find residue of the "other things, they will be a lot more confident" about what caused the explosion, he said.

There has been no credible claim of responsibility for the downing of Flight 800. "It hasn't moved an inch," one U.S. intelligence official told CNN, referring to the investigation into a possible international link to the explosion.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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