On July 17, 1996, Trans World Airlines Flight 800 exploded midair over the Atlantic Ocean killing all 230 souls onboard. Despite a four-year investigation, considered to be the longest and priciest at $40 million in the history of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the source of the explosion still remains a mystery.
The Boeing 747 took off from New York's John F Kennedy International Airport at 8.19 pm on a clear evening carrying a crew of 18 and 212 passengers. Among the passengers making the trip to Paris included 16 students from the Montoursville Area High School French Club in Pennsylvania along with their 5 chaperones. Little did they know that their journey would be abruptly terminated a mere 12 minutes into the flight.
The tragedy which occurred over East Moriches, New York which is located some 12 miles off the coast of Long Island was observed by many witnesses as this excerpt explains: “Flight 800 had just received clearance to initiate a climb to cruise altitude when it exploded without warning. Because the plane was loaded with fuel for the long transatlantic journey, it vaporized within moments, creating a fireball seen almost all along the coastline of Long Island."
It led to widespread speculation that it was the result of a terrorist attack or an accidental launch by the U.S Navy as this excerpt explains: Witnesses in the area of the crash reported seeing an explosion in the night sky, followed by a shower of flaming debris. Almost immediately there was speculation that the plane had been the target of a terrorist attack, with many claiming they’d spotted what appeared to be a missile heading toward the plane just before it exploded."
Once the pieces of the aircraft were retrieved from the ocean floor and examined, it was concluded that the explosion was caused by electrical failure and not a terrorist attack. However, the source of the explosion still remains unclear.