TWA Flight 800

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Trans World Airlines Flight 800 (TWA 800), a Boeing 747-131, exploded and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean near East Moriches, New York, on July 17, 1996, at about 20:31 EDT (00:31, July 18 UTC), 12 minutes after takeoff, killing all 230 persons on board. TWA 800 was a scheduled international passenger flight from New York City, New York to Rome, Italy, with a stopover in Paris, France.[1]

While accident investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) traveled to the scene, arriving the following morning,[2] there was much initial speculation that a terrorist attack was the cause of the crash.[3][4][5] Consequently, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) initiated a parallel criminal investigation.[6] Sixteen months later the FBI announced that no evidence had been found of a criminal act, and closed its active investigation.[7]

The four-year NTSB investigation ended with the adoption of its final report on August 23, 2000. The report's conclusion was that the probable cause of the accident was an explosion of flammable fuel/air vapors in a fuel tank, and, although it could not be determined with certainty, the most likely cause of the explosion was a short circuit.[8] As a result of the crash, new requirements were developed for aircraft to prevent future fuel tank explosions.[9]

Many TWA Flight 800 alternative theories exist, the most prevalent being that a missile strike from a terrorist or U.S. Navy vessel caused the crash, and is the subject of a government coverup.[10][11] The missile theory emerged because of eyewitnesses in the Long Island area who reported seeing something resembling a flare or firework ascend and explode. However, analysis by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) concluded that they saw only the burning aircraft, not a missile attack.[12]

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