• TWA Flight 800 in 1982
  • TWA Flight 800 wreckage

Real Name: TWA Flight 800
Case: Historical Event/Conspiracy
Location: Atlantic Ocean
Date: July 17, 1996


Details: On July 17, 1996, TWA Flight 800, flying from New York to Paris and carrying 212 passengers and 18 crew members, exploded in mid-air off of Long Island. Everyone onboard perished. Although the government and most investigators claimed that the explosion was an accident, other theories include that the plane was struck by a US missile or that a bomb was on board, and the government may have covered up the incident. However, they deny all of the allegations against them.
Four months after the crash, former press secretary Pierre Salinger became the first to publicly state that he believed the flight had been shot down by our own Navy and that the Navy was attempting to conceal the truth.
Since the night of the crash, tons of wreckage and debris has been taken from the ocean floor in an attempt to piece the plane back together. Officials have narrowed down the cause to three possibilities: a bomb, mechanical malfunction, or a shoulder-launched terrorist missile. The missile scenario is supported by thirty eyewitness accounts who claimed to have seen an unusual streak of light in the sky just before the explosion.
However, physicist and missile expert Bud Sewell claims that those accounts could just as likely support a bomb scenario. Sewell claims that a terrorist bomb, if properly designed, could give off a bright luminous streak similar to the eyewitness testimony. Also, there appeared to be no other evidence of a missile hit, especially one from the US Navy. However, Sallinger claims that he has found evidence to support his theory.
At a press conference in Paris, he produced still frames of radar sweeps that he claimed were recorded in the tower of New York's Kennedy Airport on the night of the crash. On one of the radar sweeps, there is an unidentified object to the left of TWA Flight 800. Sallinger believes that the object is a Navy surface-to-air missile. At another sweep just seconds before the explosion, the object has disappeared from view. In later radar frames, the TWA flight designation has vanished from the screen.
The government claims to have found no evidence to support a missile hit. Sallinger, however, claims that there is evidence that some of the victims on the plane were crushed by an object that went through the plane.
There is some circumstantial evidence that appears to support the Navy missile theory. On the night of the crash, military exercises were being conducted off the Long Island coast. TWA Flight 800 diverted from its original flight path to avoid a restricted area. The only ship in the area with standard missile capability at the time of the crash was the USS Normandy. However, it was 180 miles away from the crash site. The maximum range of the standard missile was 80 miles. Also, a missile expert claims that the Navy's missiles are too expensive for them to fire off during exercises.
Finally, it would be very unlikely for the military to have covered up the incident because there were over 100 crewmen aboard the USS Normandy. Also, hundreds of civilians involved in the investigation wold also have to be lying if the conspiracy theory was true. However, theorists have noted that the military has been less-than cooperative with incidents in the past. After the USS Vincennes accidentally shot down an Iranian passenger plane in 1988, the military initially justified the incident by using false information. They claimed that the plane had been emitting military codes. They have since admitted that this was not true.
The missile expert stated that he contacted the Navy after the crash. They confirmed that they could account for every missile in their fleet by serial number. However, Sallinger and others continue to insist that the government is lying.
Suspects: Some believe that the US military may have accidentally fired a missile at the plane, or that an unidentified individual placed a bomb onboard.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the February 14, 1997 episode.
Some have noted similarities between this crash and the crash of Iran Air Flight 655. This was featured in a segment about an attack against Captain Will Rogers's wife Sharon.
Results: Unresolved. On August 23, 2000, the National Transportation Safety Board issued its final report on the crash. The report stated the probable cause of the crash was a design flaw in the center wing fuel tank. However, some theorists still believe that a missile or a bomb was the true cause of the crash.