On the night of July 17, 1996 TWA Flight 800 exploded and crashed off the coast of Long Island, killing everyone on board. For months, investigators focused on three possible causes--- a bomb, mechanical failure, or a terrorist missile. While the NTSB eventually concluded that the jet had exploded due to mechanical failure, as far as many people are concerned, what truly happened remains a mystery.
According to most authorities, TWA Flight 800 crashed, because its nearly empty center fuel tank exploded.
The center tank lies at the heart of the 747's structure, embedded among the spars that support its wings and resting atop the keel beam that runs along its belly. When Flight 800's center tank exploded, it broke two of the wings' three spars and led to the fracture of the keel beam. After that, the forward fuselage failed and was ripped from the aircraft, which then disintegrated, plunging into the Atlantic Ocean off Long Island, N.Y. All 230 on board were killed.
Some of the theories on why the tank exploded include:
More than thirty witnesses claim to have seen an object rising up toward and colliding with Flight 800, prior to the 747's explosion, the kind of visual a friendly fire or terrorist missile launch might have created.
The F.B.I., the Navy, the NTSB, and others, have vigorously denied the terrorist missile or "friendly fire" theories. Many American, including relatives of those killed in the Flight 800 explosion, support these theories.
YET ANOTHER THEORY:
National Transportation Safety Board lead investigator Bernard
Loeb has an additional POSSIBLE theory. A small crack in the center
fuel tank may have caused leaking fuel particles to form a cloud,
which then discharged a deadly electric spark. He's been unable
to prove this theory, so far.