WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- Cover up or conspiracy theory? Seventeen years after TWA Flight 800 fell from the sky off Long Island, former investigators are breaking their silence to say it was NO mechanical failure and they're hinting at a massive cover-up.
The allegations are in a documentary airing next month on Epix.
The producers went back to the eyewitnesses who had always insisted they'd seen something hit TWA before it blew up and fell into the ocean off Long Island. "I saw the object rise out of the ocean," says one. "It was moving very rapidly." "And then started climbing rapidly past my altitude and then exploded."
But the documentarians also talked to former airline, union, and NTSB investigators who reject the official finding that a spark in the fuel tank brought down the plane. "We didn't find any part that indicated a mechanical failure," says one in a clip provided by Epix. "The explosive forces came from outside the aircraft. Not the center fuel tank.
230 people died in the 1996 crash, including Leonard and Eleanor Johnson of Springfield. Their son Eric says he'll keep an open mind -- but he says he looked at the wreckage, and was convinced the explosion came from inside the fuel tank.
He's skeptical anyone could pull off the massive cover-up required if Navy ship had accidentally launched a missile... and he suspects a terrorist stinger would have hit the hot engines, not the cool fuel tank.
But the producers are petitioning the NTSB to re-start its investigation.
We sat down with NTSB Chair Deborah Hersman and asked her if the cause of the crash could be due to a missile. Hersman's answer: "Certainly, we will look at the information that's provided in the petition for reconsideration and we will give it our due respect and evaluation."
Hersman also said, "This investigation was conducted many years ago, it was a very thorough investigation at the time, it took 4 years to compete, they held public hearings that lasted for 5 days, we had a 2-day board meeting, and there's over 17,000 pages of documents that are available to the public in our public docket."
The TWA documentary airs on Epix on July 17h, the 17th anniversary of the explosion.