About a month ago, I received a five-minute long thermal imaging video from a well-placed source, who chooses to remain anonymous. I made copies for a few key people and solicited their interpretation of what we were looking at.
What we concluded, in fact, is that this extraordinary video has the potential to break the TWA Flight 800 case wide open.
The video had been shot from a U.S. Navy P-3 Orion that had been flying almost directly above TWA Flight 800 when it exploded off the coast of Long Island on the night of July 17, 1996. For the record, the P-3 is a long-range, antisubmarine warfare patrol aircraft with advanced submarine detection and avionics equipment.
VIDEO:Aftermath of TWA Flight 800 destruction.
According to the P-3 crew, all of whom remained stubbornly evasive about their mission when questioned, the plane was flying at 22,000 feet and heading south when the first explosion occurred about a mile away. One unnamed member of the crew was a New York Police Department representative of the NYPD/FBI Joint Task Force – tasked with fighting terrorism in the New York City area.
When the crew members learned of the blast, they promptly circled back over the area for half an hour and offered to help. This video was shot during that period. There is no mistaking the perspective as the camera tilts down past the plane’s propellers.
In no FBI or NTSB report that I have seen is there any mention of this video, despite its obvious evidentiary value. Since receiving it, I learned that a copy had been produced years earlier as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request.
The earlier version, as reported, appeared to have several jump-cuts, which suggested to those who viewed it that the tape had been edited and spliced into a single length.
This new version has no apparent edits in either of its two distinct sections. Like the edited version, it focuses on the smoking debris field, which appears from above as two roughly parallel black lines with various black dots in between them.
There is nothing provocative about this. The imagery correlates well with the debris field as later diagrammed and as shown in the earlier, edited version of the video.
In the new unedited version, however, the cameraman does not stay with the known debris field. In each of the two short sections, on five separate occasions, he pans the camera about three miles off to the northwest, back towards JFK where TWA Flight originated, and focuses on another burning object.
This second object appears to the viewer as a large black spot. What catches the cameraman’s eye is a substantial smoke plume wafting high into the sky from this obviously burning object.
In no subsequent government report is there any mention, let alone clarification, of what this object might be.
James Sanders thinks he knows. An investigative reporter, and my research partner on the video “Silenced” and the book “First Strike,” Sanders has been investigating this case from day one.
His investigation, in fact, would lead to the arrest and conviction of him and his wife, Elizabeth, a TWA employee – a disgraceful episode both for the government and the quiescent major media.
When I first told him of the video, I reported the burning object as being northeast of the major debris field. “Hmmm,” he responded, “I thought it would have been northwest.”
He was right. I had misspoken. I had meant to say northwest. Sanders was on to something. He knew that for a fact after he had a chance to watch the video.
Based on eyewitness reports and physical evidence, Sanders is convinced that a first missile warhead explosion entered the fuselage and center wing tank, right side, approximately where the leading edge of the right wing meets the fuselage.
Among the best of those witnesses was a travel industry employee from North Carolina, referred to in the FBI 302s – the official witness statements – as “witness number 73.”
In her first interview, on July 30, 1996, she had told an FBI agent that she was standing on the beach when she noticed a 747 “level off.” The flight pattern caught this experienced observer’s attention because she thought the altitude too low for the plane to be doing this.
With her eye still on the plane, she watched in awe as a “red streak” with a “light gray smoke trail” moved up towards the airline at a 45-degree angle. Then, the “red streak went past the right side and above the aircraft before arcking [sic] back down toward the aircrafts [sic] right wing.”
The witness saw “the front of the aircraft separate from the back” and watched in mounting horror as the burning pieces of the debris fell from the aircraft. She provided a drawing that showed the scenario in some detail, including the “upside down Nike swoosh” which ended at the plane’s right wing.
The missile entry point along the right wing matches up with where the red residue was found on the plane’s seat backs. It is also where the FBI found multiple high order explosive residue samples, inside and outside the cabin.
That inner right engine, the number 3 engine, proved problematic for the NTSB from the beginning. Sanders has reviewed a news segment shot at the scene where the number 3 engine was brought ashore the first week of August 1996. He has the raw footage, but he does not know if it ever aired.
On the news segment, a young talking head states that the engine in question had fallen into the ocean so far removed from the rest of the aircraft’s remains that the Navy could not find it until after completing a search substantially west of the known Red Zone debris field.
Sanders contends that the location of the engine was so damaging to the developing government case for a spontaneous fuel tank explosion that the FBI and/or NTSB had to corrupt the debris field charts by eventually placing the find a few miles to the east of its actual location.
As Sanders also observes, the number 3 engine fuel gauge showed a fuel burn dramatically in excess of the other three engines, an anomaly for which there was never an accounting.
He is convinced that a missile blew the engine off three miles from where the bulk of the plane descended into the ocean. All evidence supports him, including now, a literal smoking gun, an object with sufficient fuel of its own to still have been burning at least a half hour after the crash. And that object is not likely the engine.
More on this story as it develops.
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