Flight 800 eyewitness Paul Angelides (left)
interviewed by FIRO Chairman Tom Stalcup on Fire Island, New York
TWA Flight 800 Eyewitness
The FBI interviewed 670 eyewitnesses to the crash of TWA Flight 800.
Witnesses who observed events early in the crash sequence described a
rising streak of light culminating in an airborne explosion at Flight
Nearly all of the witnesses observed the end of the crash sequence,
which included the fiery descent of the jetliner into the Atlantic
Ocean. A detailed compilation of eyewitness statistics from raw FBI
interview documents and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)
reports can be found in FIRO's "Review of
the Official TWA Flight 800 Witness Reports."
Skip to Eyewitness Quotes
The first federal release of the eyewitness evidence came in a
CIA-produced video. During the final FBI press conference on the crash
in November of 1997, then lead FBI investigator James Kallstrom
presented the CIA video, entitled "TWA Flight 800: What Did the
Eyewitnesses See?" All the major television networks aired the
The CIA attributed a well-observed streak of light to Flight 800 itself.
The streak was shown originating at Flight 800's altitude when it
exploded: 13,800 feet or 2.6 miles. According to the CIA video, Flight
800 climbed sharply after exploding and "may have looked like a
missile attacking an aircraft."
CIA video frames from a live CNN broadcast
The video repeatedly dismissed the idea of the streak being a
missile. Several graphics throughout the video contained the underlined
and bolded words "Not A Missile," while the video's
narrator emphasized the word Not.
The CIA's strongest language against the missile theory came at the
video's conclusion, when the narrator stated that "nothing in
[the eyewitness] statements leads CIA analysts to conclude that
these eyewitnesses in fact saw a missile."
NTSB Witness Group Contradicts CIA Video
Just three weeks after the FBI released the CIA video, the NTSB was
scheduled to release its own analysis of the eyewitness evidence at a
weeklong public hearing in Baltimore, Maryland. The NTSB had compiled a
statistical analysis of the eyewitness evidence in the Witness Group
Factual Report: Exhibit 4A, which included the following findings:
"102 [eyewitnesses] gave information about the origin of
the streak. Six said the streak originated from the air, and 96 said
that it originated from the surface."
Discussion at the Baltimore hearings would have undoubtedly focused
on the overwhelming percentage (94%) of witnesses who said the streak
rose from the surface. The compelling statistics regarding the streak's
origin could have undermined the CIA animation and directed public
attention toward the missile theory.
For those paying attention to the investigation, the witness portion
of the hearing was highly anticipated. And it was coming, save an
eyewitness ban from the NTSB Chairman.
Days before the hearing began and in response to a letter from then FBI
Assistant Director James Kallstrom, NTSB Chairman Jim Hall banned all
eyewitness presentations from the hearing. Kallstrom's letter
contained objections to public eyewitness discussions, in part, because
of the possibility "of undermining the CIA’s work." Ultimately,
no eyewitness testified and no discussion of eyewitness evidence or the
CIA animation was allowed at the hearing. (Kallstrom's letter to Chairman Hall is
reproduced in this FIRO article).
Former NTSB Chairman Jim Hall.
Independent Researchers Disillusioned
The cancellation of witness discussions at the NTSB hearing shocked a
tight-knit community of individuals independently researching the crash.
Communicating via Internet newsgroups and email discussion lists, news
of the cancellation reached the independent researchers quickly. Some
researchers tried to persuade the media to discuss the witness evidence
publicly, since federal investigators refused to.
But the major networks were silent. Their reporting of the NTSB hearing
seemed as hollow as the hearing itself. And even though the CIA
animation conflicted with their own televised witness interviews, they
accepted it without question.
Scene from NTSB Baltimore Hearing on TWA
It slowly became apparent that the government and the mainstream
media had decided against reviving public interest in the eyewitness
reports. Throughout a four-year investigation, the NTSB interviewed
fewer than two percent of the eyewitnesses and never discussed the
accounts publicly until the very end, when Flight 800 was a distant
memory to most Americans.
Some of the independent researchers joined together to form FIRO
(Flight 800 Independent Researchers Organization), a group dedicated to
assisting federal investigators determine the cause for the crash.
Since its inception, FIRO has uncovered significant evidence that
contradicts the official theory for the crash, some of which is included
in a petition to the NTSB. As
of 11/29/02, the NTSB is preparing a formal response to this petition.
FIRO has also interviewed dozens of eyewitnesses and published a thorough eyewitness study. Some early
eyewitness interviews were conducted over the phone and asked the
witnesses to comment on the CIA video.
When asked if what he saw was Flight 800 itself, witness Paul Runyan
said, "Yeah right [with sarcasm], coming off the water...What
I saw was going up from the surface like a rising flare."
Eyewitness Darrel Miron said the CIA video was a "total
fabrication."(12/97 phone interviews with FIRO Chairman Tom
Eyewitness Evidence Released
In April of 2000, the NTSB released thousands of FBI documents
representing interviews with 670 eyewitnesses. Many witness documents
are missing and listed by the FBI as "unable to locate." And it is
possible that interviews with hundreds of other witnesses have not yet
been released. However, from the available witness documents, 21
eyewitnesses observed two distinct objects in the air.
NTSB Witness Location Map.
Click here for eyewitness quotes.