FBI: No criminal evidence behind TWA 800 crash
Video shows stages of jet's breakup
November 18, 1997
Web posted at: 3:23 p.m. EST (2023 GMT)
NEW YORK (CNN) -- The FBI formally ended its 16-month
investigation Tuesday into the crash of TWA flight 800, and
agents said there was no evidence it was a criminal act. The
probe now shifts to the National Transportation Safety Board,
which plans to hold public hearings next month.
"No evidence has been found which would indicate that a
criminal act was the cause of the tragedy of TWA flight 800,"
FBI Assistant Director James Kallstrom told a news
"We do know one thing," Kallstrom said. "The law enforcement
team has done everything humanly possible, has pursued every
lead, has looked at every theory and has left no stone
He said the cost of the FBI probe ranged from $14 million to $20 million.
The FBI's conclusion left mechanical failure -- not a bomb or
missile -- as the most likely cause of the crash on July 17,
1996, when the Paris-bound Boeing 747 exploded in a fireball
minutes after taking off from Kennedy International Airport,
killing all 230 people on board.
A CIA video simulation shown during the briefing concluded
that witnesses to the crash off the Long Island coast saw the
breakup of the doomed plane in the seconds after the initial
explosion, not the explosion itself. The video outlined the
step-by-step chronology of the accident.
What some people thought was a missile hitting the plane was
burning, leaking fuel from the jet after the front part of it
had already broken off, FBI officials said.
Thousands of interviews done
Hundreds of investigators carried out thousands of
interviews, and nearly 1 million pieces (96 percent) of the
aircraft were retrieved after months of trawling and 4,600
dives, Kallstrom said. All 230 victims were recovered and
"We recovered 39,600 items of personal effects," he added,
"items that meant so much to the family members."
There were interviews with 244 witnesses who saw the
explosion over the Atlantic Ocean.
Kallstrom said there was no evidence of a missile attack, as
some people had feared.
He said that despite checking every possible angle on such an
attack -- including tracing the course of thousands of boats
in New York harbor, talking to boat owners, confiscating some
boats to check them for burn marks, and viewing massive
air-control radar data -- there was no evidence to support
the missile theory.