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Trawlers pull up pieces of TWA Flight 800's fuel tank


November 7, 1996
Web posted at: 3:00 p.m. EST

EAST MORICHES, New York (CNN) -- Trawlers combing the Atlantic Ocean for the last pieces of TWA Flight 800 have recovered parts of the crucial center fuel tank, officials said Thursday.

"We've found several small pieces from the center fuel tank," said Shelly Hazle, spokeswoman for the National Transportation Safety Board.

Hazle said it is too early to tell what part of the tank the debris came from or whether the pieces shed new light as to the cause of the explosion.


Since new salvage efforts began this week using commercial ships that normally trawl for shellfish, hundreds of pounds of wreckage have been retrieved. The pieces, some as large as 2 feet long, have been taken to a hangar where investigators are reassembling the plane.

"We're very surprised by the amount we're bringing up and we're obviously very happy about it," she said.

James Kallstrom, who is heading the criminal probe of the explosion, said Wednesday the FBI is pleased it chose scallop trawling methods -- in which 15-foot wide dredges are drawn across the ocean's bottom -- to pick up remaining wreckage.

About 95 percent of Flight 800 has been retrieved. But more than three months of investigating have yielded no definitive clues as to what caused the plane to explode.

Investigators have long said the explosion took place in the center fuel tank, but they have yet to find the source of the blast.

Investigators said they were fairly certain that the newly recovered debris does not include the missing pump from the center fuel tank. The pump could prove crucial in determining whether the plane was brought down by mechanical malfunction -- rather than a bomb or a missile.


The tank's other two pumps have been recovered, but tests found no evidence linking them to the explosion.

Investigators also are anxious to retrieve the last four of seven fuel probes from the center tank. The probes, which measure the amount of fuel, carry a small electric charge and are another theoretical source of the explosion.

Three recovered probes, however, were found to be normal.

Flight 800 exploded July 17 shortly after takeoff from New York, killing all 230 people aboard.


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