Page one of FBI eyewitness interview summary (FD-302) for Witness 88 (click to enlarge).
TWA Flight 800 Eyewitness Quotes
In April of 2000, the NTSB released thousands of documents representing (mostly FBI) 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. The following are direct quotes taken from official FBI witness documents, available at www.ntsb.gov.
Witness 73: "On 7/17/96, at approximately 8:37 P.M., she was on the Mobay (phonetic) section of Long Island Beach, New York, when she observed an aircraft climbing in the sky, traveling from her right to her left. She advised that the sun was setting behind her. While keeping her eyes on the aircraft, she observed a 'red streak' moving up from the ground toward the aircraft at an approximately a 45 degree angle. The 'red streak' was leaving a light gray colored smoke trail. The 'red streak went passed the right side and above the aircraft before arcing back toward the aircraft's right wing. Described the arc's shape as resembling an upside down NIKE swoosh logo. The smoke trail, which was light gray in color was narrow initially and widened as it approached the aircraft.
She initially thought someone had set off a flare and commented same to her friends...She never took her eyes off the aircraft during this time. At the instant the smoke trail ended at the aircraft's right wing, she heard a loud sharp noise which sounded like a firecracker had just exploded at her feet. She then observed a fire at the aircraft followed by one or two secondary explosions which had a deeper sound. She then observed the front of the aircraft separate from the back. She then observed burning pieces of debris falling from the aircraft."
Witness 88: "All of a sudden he heard an explosion. He glanced over to the southeast and observed what he thought was a firework ascending into the sky. He stated he originally felt this firework emanated from the shoreline on the other side of the jetty to the east. He stated that he continued to watch the firework ascend, expecting to view the explosion in the sky. He stated this object which was ascending left a wispy white smoke trail. About midway through its flight, the smoke trail stopped and the object turned a bright red in color. He felt that this bright red flame was at the top of the device. He stated that he now thought it was some type of boating distress flare. All of a sudden, it apparently reached the top of its flight. He stated that the red fireball then arced from the east to the west. At this point he observed an airplane come into the field of view. He stated this airplane was very high up and many miles from his location. He stated that the bright red object ran into the airplane and upon doing so both the plane and the object turned a real bright red then exploded into a huge plume of flame. He noted that he felt that either the bright red object pushed the nose cone of the plane up or the plane was slightly angled upward when the strike occurred. He stated he felt the bright red object struck the plane towards the cockpit area."
Witness 150: The shiny object "had no projections on it, like wings, but [she asked herself] why would there be such a huge bullet hurling through the sky?...She followed the object for approximately 2 or 3 seconds when she then noticed a large commercial airliner which appeared to be traveling at the same altitude, 'just stop' and begin to disintegrate...As the plane [identified by the witness as a 747] came apart, its nose turned up and to the right."
Witness 166: "noticed a large commercial plane flying east...[then] noticed something ascending 30-35 miles away, which looked like white, yellow fire, trailed by black smoke...It ascended in a straight line at an angle of seven to ten degrees away from a vertical ninety degree...[He] believed it was from the water...After hearing news of the crash, he concluded that he had seen a missile. He stated he was in the Polish army in 1974 and has experience with missiles...[He] opined that this was a medium size missile which would have required three experienced people to operate."
Witness 675: At a water hole in Speonk, NY "...noticed an orange flare ascending from the south, traveling in a WNW direction trailing white or light gray smoke. He then observed the flare strike what looked like an eastbound Cessna airplane on the port side. 675 saw a small burst of flame erupt from the port side wing near the fuselage. Approximately two (2) seconds later he saw the plane go into a spiral and explode. With five (5) seconds [of losing the falling debris behind the tree line] he heard what sounded like thunder and felt the ground shake."
Witness 34: "observed what he thought was a shooting star travelling west to east coming from the south shore...[it] moved faster than an airplane and had no arch to it...he stated that it approached the aircraft (what he originally thought was a Coast Guard flare) from west to east...He was approximately 15 miles from where he observed the crash site and no more then 5 miles from the missile (originally described as a shooting star)."
Witness 107: He "described the flare as starting off in the front of a larger obect and giving off an orange glow initially...[and] advised that the initial flare seemed to hit the object then shoot off to the west at an eighty (80) degree angle giving off an orange and red glow."
Witness 145: "stated that she saw a plane and noticed an object spiraling towards the plane. The object which she saw for about one second, had a glow at the end of it and a gray/white smoke trail. She stated she saw the object hit the plane and the object headed down toward the ocean. She could not be sure where the object hit the plane, but said it could have been to the side or near the back. She heard a loud noise and saw an explosion just as the object hit the plane. The plane dropped towards the water and appeared to split in two pieces. A few seconds later, she heard another explosion. She stated that the explosions were so loud that they shook the house." A drawing of the collision is presented.
Witness 640: At Smith Point Park, "he leaned back to stretch [and] his eye caught a jet plane in the sky, off to his left, and moving eastward. At the same time, he saw, off to his right, a 'green flash' rising up, and going toward the plane. The "flash" was far out in the ocean, was rising from the west, was also traveling east, and was behind the plane."
Witness 144: "she first noticed a plane in the sky traveling right to left...She then saw an object angle to the right with a bright orange glow with a white streak behind it...She then lost site of the streak because of the clouds. She described this streak as 'taking off like a rocket.' She thought at first that she saw fireworks but then changed her mind and said 'no way it was a missile.' After the clouds parted she saw a bright orange fireball, more than doubled in size, which broke shortly after into two pieces."
Witness 550b: "[H]e saw a plane coming from west to east and then what looked like a 'smaller' plane coming from the northeast on a dead course heading toward the nose of the larger plane...and saw what looked like aerial bomb fireworks. The larger plane blew up and became a big fireball...he heard a sound like paper crackling when the 'two planes' crunched up."
Witness 649: At Westhampton Beach High School, 649 observed a "projectile ascend in the sky." It was "red or pink with a trail of whitish smoke. The projectile moved in a squiggly manner in a southwest direction. The projectile was airborne for six-seven seconds and then it met with a shiny object that produced white smoke. The white smoke disappeared and then a red ball began to form. The red ball fell in an easterly direction at a [?]much quicker[?] pace than the projectile was ascending." [? this is contradicted by a later FBI summary that says the second object fell at the same or half the speed of the first, ascending object.]
Witness 658: While piloting an Air National Guard Helicopter, "Baur first noticed what he thought was a flare and said into the helicopter's radio, "Is that a pyro?" Baur's first thought was that two things had flown into each other." He also saw the falling debris and immediately flew to the area in a search and rescue effort. From NTSB interview, Appendix N: A "white-hot..pyrotechnic... device...[which] came from the left and went to the right. And it made the object on the right explode."
Witness 221: "At approximately 8:30 pm, he heard the sound of jet plane engines and he looked up so see a large commercial jet which had apparently just taken off from John F. Kennedy International Airport. The aircraft was increasing in altitude as it flew out over the ocean in an easterly or southeasterly direction...Within seconds after the aircraft past him, his wife called his attention to two fishing draggers which were directly south or southwest of their location. ...looking at the draggers, but further east or in the same direction of where the aircraft flew, he saw a streak of light travel up from the water into the sky...[like] a rocket or like a shooting star only going upward..." then heard rumbling sound and saw flash of light.
Witness 157: "he noticed a red flare or firework trailing white smoke ascending over the tree line on the south side of the waterhole. The flare was angling east-southeast. Approximately seven (7) to ten (10) seconds later, he observed a large fireball erupt approximately 12 miles away. An object, not on fire fell away from the fireball. Before the explosion in the sky, he observed a plane in the area of the flare. After the explosion, he could no longer see the plane."
Witness 218: "observed what appeared to him as two objects flying up, coming together and exploding....then a blue and dark purple flash. Then another part dropped off. The rest of the plane seemed to coast a little further."
Witness 233: "she noticed a flare off in the distance, rising into the air [later describing the flare as rising "at a steady, remarkable pace"]...and straight up..[then after looking away at nearby boats that she thought may have launched the flare], she reacquired the flare still glowing and still steadily rising...pause..then brightly pulse in a small concentrated area...within two (2) seconds of the pulse she observed a large object seemingly stopping its forward momentum while igniting into a fireball."
Witness 261: "saw a red navigator light from an airplane in the distance. He then saw an orange firework, with a tail, in the air southwest of him. The firework traveled up, then arched down before he lost sight of it. Seconds later he saw a second and third firework in the sky simultaneously..[and they]..traveled in the same arching pattern of the first firework. Approximately 30 seconds later, he heard a rumble and saw a blue vertical line of smoke stretch down to the horizon."
Witness 243: "This flying object looked like it came up from land [later described as "ascending into the sky from an east to west direction"] in the Moriches area.. [It] was relatively slow in flying up and took about four or five seconds before hitting the plane. The smoke which trailed this object was whitish in color and the band of smoke was narrow. It looked like a Roman candle flying into the air...and neither it, nor its impact with the plane, made any noise."
Witness 508: saw "an orange thing streak toward a dark object for about 10 seconds [approaching] ...from behind and on a downward angle and continued until an explosion occurred...[And from another FBI summary, he described the trajectory of the orange object:] saw an orange object ascending in the sky...travelling horizontally from right to left." [This other summary does not mention the "dark object."]
Witness 185: "To the right of the star, a 'yellowy-orange" light, 'all glowing', was coming up, it arced, from the right of the star going left. It went in front of the star and then exploded like a big bright light...She saw the rising light originate, she thought...from the water...then one piece falling"