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CNN SPECIAL REPORTS

Witnessed: The Crash of TWA Flight 800

Aired July 15, 2014 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Witnessed: The Crash of TWA Flight 800 starts now.

Eighteen years ago this week, TWA Flight 800 exploded in the sky of the shores of Long Island. It was bound for Paris with 230 people on board. No one survived.

The suspicion of terrorism was almost immediate. Many eye-witnesses have described a streak of light heading towards the plane before it blew up. In the weeks, the months, and then years afterwards, the biggest and most intense investigation in aviation history at the time, ensued.

Eventually, the U.S. government offered their best explanation for what happened. To this day though, many still question if they got it right.

This is CNN Special Report, Witnessed: The Crash of TWA Flight 800.

DAVID MCLAIN, PILOT OF EASTWIND 507: It blew up in the air and then we saw two fireballs go down to the water. TWA Flight 800 exploded right in front of me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know right away that no survivors and it was kind of a sickly feeling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw a bright light and then white smoke flown behind it and an explosion. I do believe I saw missile.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was obviously some suspicion that it might be a terrorist attack.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: We do not know what cause this tragedy. I'm going to say that again, we do not know as of this moment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The investigation is looking at almost every possibility including state actors. We definitely thought about Khadafi in Libya. We've been looking at Iraq and Saddam Hussein.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president was prepared to take whatever action needed to be taken.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a huge potential crime scene.

JAMES KALLSTROM, HEAD OF FBI TWA 800 INVESTIGATION: This exsiccation would have been one of the largest aired up by the FBI.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a thousand agents working on the case.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My fiancee was on the plane.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My sister Paula with their son 9 years old.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is (inaudible).

JOE LYCHNER, LOST WIFE AND CHILDREN ON TWA FLIGHT 800: Our biggest concern was a recovery of our love one's bodies. There were a lot of times that I doubt it the existence of God and I say God how and why could you let something like this happen.

My name is Joe Lychner, and I lost my wife Pam who is 37, Shannon who was 10 and Katie who was eight on Flight TWA 800.

Pam decided that they were going to take a trip to Europe and it was just supposed to be a very short trip just over the weekend. I had to go on a business trip at Calgary. When I left, they jumped in arms and they wrapped their arms and legs around me. Both of them did that twice before I left in my trip because I wouldn't see him for over a week.

Shannon was 10 years old when she passed and I guess I would really describe her as a very kind-hearted little angel. And she even promised me that she would be the one who would take care of me in my old age.

Katie was different in Shannon. She was a little spitfire. She knew what she wanted in her life and sure that she would have gotten it.

I talked to Pam just 15 minutes before they boarder the flight. She called me and told me that the flight was delayed and I could hear the kids playing in the background and we were talking about what time they would expect to arrive now. And, you know, everything is going be OK.

DONALD NIBERT, LOST DAUGHTER ON TWA FLIGHT 800: My name is Don Nibert. We lost our youngest daughter on Flight 800. Cheryl was 16 years old. She was part of the Fox Club and he planning on taking this trip. Her older sister took the same trip four years before so there is no way we could tell her she couldn't.

I drove Cheryl in to the school where they meet specifically home bus together JFK. She and the other students were very excited.

We had 16 students plus five chaperons. When Cheryl decided to pick the trip -- make this trip, I really didn't want her to go. I was concerned and I just have that feeling. We really couldn't refuse her. I wish we have.

JOHN GOGLIA, BOARD MEMBER NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: TWA 800 was on the time-out for a long time from nearly after noon until the departure time that evening. My name is John Goglia. At the time of the TWA Flight 800 accident I was one of the five board members of the National Transportation Safety Board.

At the departure time of that time of the Airplane from JFK it was a quite hot summer day. In airport the airplanes and the equipment, in and around the airplanes were mostly likely all over a 100 degrees. And that we believe played a role in this accident.

The airplane left on 8:00 in the evening and 11:00 when it's later the event occurred.

MCLAIN: I'm Captain David McLain. I was with Eastwind Airlines and I was the primary witness to this accident when TWA blew up. At the time of the accident we were over head on island about 1600 feet headed out over the water and it was dust it was around the 8:30 in the evening.

You could see a long ways a good 50, 60, 70 miles or more. I saw all this flight departing out of JFK with a bright light kind of yellowish colors. And I mentioned to my first officer and we thought that possibly that might even be a fire but it was no smoke or anything. And some eyes it was probably the landing light. They were crossing our flight map and they're moving from the right to the left so we had a very good sight up in about 13 miles ahead of us.

And I click on the landing light to -- want to know I saw them and that exact instant, it blew up.

They exploded right in front of me. It was a big fireball and it was a (inaudible). We could see the two wings fall off and fuel was obviously coming out of the wings and then wing was of course was on fire so that it is long fiery streamers going about three to 4000 feet from the wings all away down to the water.

I have reported almost immediately as an in fired explosion.

We just saw an explosion out here. Stringer Bee 507.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stringer Bee 507, I'm sorry I missed it. You're out of 18, did you say something else?

MCLAIN: We just saw an explosion up ahead of us here, about 1600 feet of something like that. It just went down to the water.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: TWA 800, Center.

MCLAIN: I think that was him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think so.

MCLAIN: God bless him. And probably the fact that there could be more now and did back then.

I heard (ph) 230 lives are gone and it wasn't until next day that is started mentioning people, who the survivors were and it's French Club never got to France and we started come more human in and that's when he started to fill up. I was sure it broke up immediately and I'm sure everybody was killed instantly at this fire like I see. Imagining didn't know what hit him. I thought it was bomb or some sort of sabotage. There was definitely no other cause and something was on board that caused explosion.

JOHN PODESTA, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF OF PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: When a major airliner goes down suddenly, your first sense is that somebody was responsible for blowing it up. The FBI they were working on the theory that this was a deliberate act of terrorism.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CLINTON: I'd like to say a few words about the crash last night. First, on behalf of the American people, I want to say to the families of the passengers, we are all aware that only the passage of time, the love of your family, and faith in God can ease your pain but America stands with you.

PODESTA: When the TWA 800 tragedy happened I was chief of staff to President Bill Clinton. I immediately called the president and said that I'd just been informed that large airliner had gone down on off of Long Island and was not sure what was the cause of it but did say that there had been an explosion and when the plane went down. And so, you know, there was obviously some suspicion that it might be a terrorist attack.

There was a pause, you could tell that, you know, he was shocked by the news because she knew that an awful lot of lives had been lost.

CLINTON: The chief of staff Podesta (ph) and he just met in the White House situation room with all the agencies involved and it's finished briefingly (ph) on our response.

PODESTA: I can remember to me. We went around. There was some who thought that there might had been some witnesses to the plane going down. There was even some talk about the possibility of seeing some kind of arch of light that might have gone towards the plane which would have indicated some kind of missile. My first sense was that this was not just an accident. This was something that had been cause deliberately.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fact was nobody really knew. CLINTON: I want to caution the American people. We have no evidence on this flight yet that would indicate that cause of the accident. So let's wait until we see the evidence.

NIBERT: At about to 8:30, my mother who had been dead for two years, she said in here Southern Ohio Kentucky accent that I can never misplace. She says, "Don, Cheryl is OK." She's with me. She did not say heaven was implied. I turned around expecting to see my mother, I saw nothing. I received the telephone call from my mother of one of Cheryl's friends was on the trip. She says, "Don, I will say yes, plane crash out of JFK at 8:30."

And I turned the TV on, so they said it was I think 50 miles high when it went down. My wife Pa and I both realize that there should be anyone survive, you know, from the crash.

LYCHNER: By 2 AM in the morning, it became very apparent from the news reports that they were not finding any survivors. My biggest goal right after that was to get there as fast as I possibly could. And to be as close to where the event happened and then into be nearer my family.

NIBERT: Now, the call from the corner, he wanted us to come to New York for an dental records other health records from Cheryl so that he could examine them. Later we talked to the coastguard who've recovered her. He was in tears when he saw us and we had thought was Cheryl's (inaudible) on it. He saw the pictures, started crying. He says, "I recovered." He says, "I thought I felt it and we work her calm (ph). They did trying to revive her. He says, "We couldn't."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Closure for me, now is recovering their bodies. That's my number one priority. I had three people on that plane and I cannot leave one of them out there.

LYCHNER: That was really the only thing that mattered. Call the FBI, and the NTSB and everybody else is of run and how trying to figure out exactly what happened in this crash.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a massive investigation ongoing. KALLSTROM: I'm James Kallstrom and I was in charge of the FBI's TWA investigation. When this tragedy happened the country was at very high state of alert where then a day and a half, I have a thousand agents working on the case. I admittedly thought this was more than likely terrorist and we didn't know for sure but the fact that a 747 blew in a fireball, that's not a normal thing to happen. The fact that numerous showed the fired missiles were lost over the years form different thefts from armories around the world.

Within t10 minutes of it happening, we have people calling our command center and telling us they saw a things ascending into the sky. So we took that very seriously.

MIKE WIRE, WITNESS TO TWA FLIGHT 800: My name is Mike Wire. I was a witness to the flight the 800. Yes, I do believe I saw a missile.

I was standing on the beach line bridge taking the brake and I was looking at over the ocean and I saw what looked to be like cheap (ph) fireworks coming from the buff line of a house and it went out to see zigzag and then had a white smoke on behind it and parked over and disappeared for a few seconds.

And then in explosion it started getting bigger and bigger and bigger until it filled up most of the sky and out of that ball of fire a few slide you could see it coming down burning. One wing flew off and there shockwave. I can feel over my chest and shock 65 ton bridge that I was standing on. There was another two explosions and then one more for a total.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The investigation was looking at almost every possibility including state actors. We definitely talk about Khadafi in Libya. We were looking at Iraq in Saddam Hussein. President was prepared to take whatever action needed to be taken.

(COMERCIAL BREAK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Investigation starts, we came to it. We've got location of the debris. There's three major debris fields. This was a huge petro-pricing. The debris in a 130 feet of water and command center is set up at the Coastguard station on Mauritius, Long Island. And we start the process in conjunction with NTSB of bringing the pieces of the plane and the bodies up from the ocean.

KALLSTROM: We were really looking to see if any of these bodies that were attacked had any signs of an impact of terrorism. But then we could put where that body was on that airplane. So it was very necessary for us to sort of map that and sort of map the damage. And that's why we have to reconstruct the airplane to see that and see if there's any holes penetrating the outside of the airplane that lined up with some explosion that took place outside the airplane.

PODESTA: When TWA 800 went down, there are a whole series of things that had happened that had raised concerns about growing terrorism. We saw the flight go down over Scotland. We had the bombing that took place at the Trade Towers.

And if you add, you know the fact that trial was going on for the people involved in the bombing at the Trade Towers -- don't forget that within 10 days of that incident we had a terrorist attack at the Olympics. You're dealing with a situation in which as president of United States is increasingly concern that we are becoming more and more the target of terrorism.

CLINTON: We do not know why TWA Flight 800 crashed. If it proves to be a criminal act, other security steps may be required. Whatever needs to be done, we will do it. I will use the full powers of the presidency. And if Congressional authorization is required, I am certain we will have full bipartisan Congressional support.

PODESTA: At that point in time, the investigation at almost every possibility including a state actors. We definitely thought about Khadafi in Libya since they were at that point suspected for having brought down the other airliner. We were looking at Iraq and Saddam Husssein. We were looking at the possibility that even Iran might have played a role in this as well.

Well, clearly, if we had determined that this was a foreign act or a terrorist similar to what had happened to 9/11 that President Clinton would not have hesitated to take action.

KALLSTROM: The investigation was huge from the standpoint of its involvement. We had to look at all the people on the plane. Who were they? What was their background? Who were they -- mentally stable? Who put anything on the plane? Who took it off? Who could have accessed the center of the airplane where the baggage is stored? What's their background? Where do they come from? What's their criminal record? Are they citizens?

Now you start to see the size of the investigation. We're talking thousands of people. As to initial theory, who was on Long Island that night?

Who was there on a car on a porch walking down the street on the beach? Who took out a boat? Who rented a boat? Who has a boat? Did anybody steal a boat?

It had hundreds of people say they saw things from their porches from their boats and that's why we put a lot of emphasis on the missile theory.

PAT MILTON, ASSOCIATED PRESS REPORTER: My name is Pat Milton. I work for the Associated Press as a reported and I was sent out to the crash site about an hour and a half after it occurred. And I ended up covering the crash day by day for four years.

So hundreds of eye witnesses along the coast of Long Island who swore that they saw something in the air that night -- some characterized it as fireworks, others said maybe it was a missile going towards a plane. One of these elements that did arise was that was it a friendly fire action.

We had learned that the U.S. Navy had a shift that was in the USS Normandy that did have surfaced the air missiles on it and had just been loaded on earlier that day.

KALLSTROM: The USS Normandy had a crew of over 400 people. We went and interviewed everybody in the Normandy. We accounted for all the weapons on the Normandy, all the missiles because the missiles of the Normandy were out of range of TWA Flight 800. But we had to run all these things to the ground.

GOGLIA: The two theories are that there is a bomb on board or an event like a missile from the outside. Missiles when they take down airplanes will do it in two ways. One is they can come slamming into the airplane which is very difficult to do, the other is the explode near by the airplane.

So in either event, you're going to have holes from outside going inside the airplane. When I went over every inch of that airplane looking for those holes -- no, I did not find any holes. I looked for all I was worth.

KALLSTROM: We got at least three radars that saw this event. And some initial reports that evening showed some anomalies on one of the radars that was mistaken by someone from the FAA as a missile hitting the plane and later on it was determined to be some set of electrical interference that happens all the time. But sure the radars were critically important.

GOGLIA: The FBI hung on to every bit of the radar data and they tried, and tried, and tried, to connect those thoughts if you will. And despite their best efforts, they were not able to prove that that was a missile that came up to hit the airplane.

UNIDENTIFED MALE: As time went on, the pieces of this puzzle started to come together.

UNIDENTIFED MALE: We have the strength of connected dots that lead us to the center of filled tank.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know the center of filled tank exploded and that's a fact. The question was, "What caused it to blow up?"

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NIBERT: Mountoursville's population is around 5,000, very small town, we lost 181 people, students and chaperones on Flight 800. It seems like everybody knew at least one or a few of the people involved. It's very difficult, very hard on the town.

Cheryl was about the third person recovered and her seat fully clothed and brought out by the coast guard. She had her ticket in her blue jeans and it had her name on it.

LYCHNER: The Ramada Inn at JFK Airport was the place where all of the family members congregated. And each day we would have a morning briefing and an afternoon briefing.

The daily briefings became really everything to us. Because they would tell who was recovered. Someone would come around and tap you on shoulder. That tap on the shoulder, I know it sounds odd, but that was a blessing because all we wanted at that point in time was to recover our loved ones' bodies and take them home.

They talk about blessings and God's intervention in helping you through tragedies like this. A friend of mine, he was a chap with New York City police, he gave me this little cross that I have and soon after that Pam was recovered, and then Katie was recovered, and Shannon was recovered.

I gave this cross to another person who had not recovered and then right after that his person's recovered. And they passed it down all the way, all the way down the line to the last person Jim Hurd, his son Jaime had not been recovered. And through their dredging operations out there, they ended up finding Jaime. So, in the end, everyone came out of the water.

As far as the investigation is concerned, I was obviously very involved because I had a vested interest in finding out what happen and ensuring the justice was served for my family.

MILTON: The FBI and other investigators we're simultaneously investigating the missile and the bomb theory.

The bottom line is everything was centered around the center of fuel tank because that's where they knew that the catastrophic event took place. They just didn't know what set off that center fuel tank if it was a bomb, a missile or mechanical failure.

JIM WILDEY, NSTB MATERIALS LABORATORY CHIEF: My name is Jim Wildey. And in the TWA Flight 800 investigation, I was the Chairman of a group who was formed to determine how and why the airplane broke apart. It is unusual to reconstruct an airplane to this degree. This is the biggest jigsaw puzzle I've ever been involved with.

We looked at differences in the fire and sit patterns and any other feature we could find to determine which fractures came first which damages in areas came first and we use that in little areas and backed up and start making a larger sequence until we were able to determine pretty much conclusively the whole breakup sequence of the airplane.

We have a giant pile of evidence that leads directly to the initial event being this explosion within the fuel tank.

GOGLIA: The tank is pretty big, 20 by 20 it may four to six feet in height. The bottom tank is supposedly perfectly flat. The pieces that we recovered on this airplane have a definite bow in it. They were pushed out from the inside. And if you go above the tank, at that same spot, you go above it it's pushed up once into the cabin. So what ever happen happened inside the tank.

KALLSTROM: We know the center fuel tank exploded. I mean, that's a fact. The question was -- from the day that the we, together, said the center fuel tank blow up, yes, that was three or four months out. What caused it blow up?

So NTSB is looking at wiring, you know, and we're looking at all the pieces of the airplane for blast. Where did the bomb blow up? We found traces of high explosives in the airplane. About six months out, it was down in a double-sided tape that helped the (inaudible). And it made no sense that there was an explosion there. Because we had the flooring and we had the seats and we had the overhead put back together again where this was found. We didn't know why it was there but later on we found out that in St. Louis someone who works on bombs training a dog went on the plane and he had some components of things that they make bombs on. It was leaking and that stuff stuck to the sticky part of the tape.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The FBI has found new evidence that sabotage may ...

MILTON: This surprised everyone, investigators as well as journalists. And there was a lot of news coverage around that that pointed to the fact that if ingredients like this was found. It had to be a bomb or maybe possibly the ingredients in a missile.

This further contributed to the fact of eye witnesses and many from the public who theorized that this plane was brought down by friendly fire and that the government was covering it up.

GOGLIA: There was a tremendous effort, many, many, many revisits by experts to take a look at the physical evidence of the airplane. We're talking about something of substance say to bring an airplane down. There was no evidence that that happened. The physical evidence on the airplane didn't support that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Moving to October of 1997 and I said, "Look, ladies and gentlemen, is there anything else that any of you think we can do that would add to this investigation? Or would add to the determination where we are now that an explosion or a terrorist did not bring down the plane? Is there anything else we can do?" And the conclusion was no.

MILTON: There's a fair number of eye witnesses who still insist that this plane was brought down by bomb or a missile. And despite the fact that there's no evidence, they will not accept the government's point of view.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The mission of the law enforcement team was to determine whether a criminal act was responsible for this disaster.

The time was arrived to report to the American people the results of that effort.

We must now report that no evidence has been found which would indicate that a criminal act was the cause of the tragedy of TWA Flight 800.

MIKE WIRE, TWA EYE WITNESS ALLIANCE: When the FBI came out with the statement that it wasn't a criminal act. The FBI came out with a video. A video depicted the aircraft in flight and the nose blowing off of the aircraft.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A (inaudible) witness reported that he watched a white light perhaps a firework traveling upward.

WIRE: It shows a flame flying quite a good distance above the house and clearly did not match anything that I witnessed.

And I just figured that something is pacified at the public. It does fit their scenario what they wanted to fit but it did not fit. What I saw, the other eye witnesses saw.

GOGLIA: Center fuel tank went "boom" and it cracked up a whole bunch of the airplane very rapidly. Now, that cracking just led to the whole airplane breaking upon.

We believe that the nose broke off just lower to the wing. That came right down, straight down and the engine's are still producing the same amount of power. So it's going to up to its later amount (ph) that airplane itself rose and continue to fly for a few thousand feet more ending up in the 16,000 foot range and you have a lot of fuel being mixed with the air and already a fire from the center field tank. So now the fireball gets to beep quite large and noticeable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There were some witnesses that saw a rising streak of light. We believe this is from the nose section coming off the residual fire burning in the airplane and the airplane rising up and creating a -- what appears to be a vertical streak of light.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From the NTSBs point of view and from the NBIs point of view, the evidence has to support what you see. No matter how much the FBI try to tie those eye witness statements into it being a missile, the physical evidence just didn't support them.

MCLAINE: I did not see anything come out this airplane. I never had said it. It could not have been another missile or rocket that was fired at it. I mean, it could have came from the other side of the airplane but from what I saw, there was definitely new other cause and something was onboard, one of the cause of the explosion. But if there was any arising in that -- in their elevation from the explosion and I guess I would have seen it but I did not see that (inaudible) when I saw the explosion, it went down not up. And the question like I said, the wings fell right off the airplane right away. So how is it going to climb, or what if it had no wings?

GOGLIA: I mean, it's a dark sky, it's sort of coming at them so he may have been able to see the wing tip lights. When this event occurred, this breaking up of the airplane and the nose fell off. I'm sure he didn't see that because it's -- the airplane's now unlift and the nose dock (ph) and the surrounding water is (inaudible). So what he probably saw was the fireball when it occurred.

MILTON: The FBI 16 months into their investigation determine that there was no evidence of a bomb or a missile and they closed their active investigation. The NTSB then took over. Four years later, the NTSB came out with their probable cause.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning and welcome to this meeting of the National Transportation Safety Board.

BERNARD LOEB, NTSB AVIATION SAFETY DIRECTOR: This leads to the inescapable conclusion that the cause of the in-flight break-up of TWA flight 800 was a fuel air explosion in the center wing tank.

WILDEY: The accident occurred on a hot day in July and the airplane was sitting on the tarmac at the gate with the air conditioners running. And the air conditioners are located right underneath the field tank. Right in this location here. So they provide a large source of heat and we did some testing and found out that the temperatures were well over 100 degrees in most of the tank.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The temperature rose quickly on the fuel and it's turning to vapor very, very rapidly and filling out this container with vapors and explosive mixture of vapors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So when you provide all these conditions together and then introduce a spark in there from any source, the fuel/air vapor is going to remate (ph) and burn rapidly, it will explode.

WILDEY: In some manner, there was a spark, an ignition source. And the safe board looked at all types of possible ignition sources. We looked at bombs and missiles and determine that neither of these was a possible scenario. So our strong suspicion is that some of the wiring that led inside the tank got a short circuit and into these high voltage into the fuel tank. The safety board really wasn't able to determine exactly the cause of the spark that got into the fuel tank.

MILTON: I think in part because the NTSB was unable to pinpoint what exactly set the center fuel tank off that they only came up with a probable cause and not a definitive cause that that has given rise to people feeling that this plane was brought down by a bomb or a missile.

NIBERT: I was suspicious about the investigation. There was at least two seconds purposely to lead it on that flight data recorder. I trusted the government before we went through this. I do not trust them now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell us ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was very excited. She's very happy that it's over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What does that photograph mean to you now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is all I got of him.

NIBERT: When we were in New York, I was suspicious about the investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's the word on ...

NIBERT: We'd have updates at least once a day from the NTSB.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a lot of wreckage there ...

NIBERT: Explaining what's going on. In these meetings, we would get different stories. OK. They would change what they were saying.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There they are.

NIBERT: And I said "I would like to have a copy of the flight data recorder tape."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The interior boxes were smashed a bit.

NIBERT: I said, "I'd like to have these analyzed independently." I said, "I want to believe what you're saying but I'm having a great deal of difficulty doing that."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The tapes were in good condition on both recorders.

NIBERT: After I received the copy of the flight data recorder, I sent that copy to my expert who analyzes this for a living and he says there's at least two seconds purposely deleted from that tape.

GOGLIA: As far as the NTSB purposely deleting anything, I don't believe we've ever done that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The one piece of damage on the flight data recorder ...

GOGLIA: When I looked at the data, I looked at that little blip in the flight data recorder, there is a space in the information and we did look at them. We talked about there being an event of something that the data was missing and it's unexplainable, it's just missing.

NIBERT: I do not know what's on those two missing seconds and I think something that might indicate that there might have an outside explosion next to the airplane is what I feel, but there's no way that we'll ever know. My wife, she passed away September 8th 2012. Donna died with being suspicious that we have never been told the truth. I trusted the government before we went through this. I do not trust them now.

KALLSTROM: I spent some time with a couple of the families that felt there was some sort of a cover up and I convinced them there wasn't and I think they believed that what I said is true. There are some that you'll never change their view, that mistake -- everything the government does is a conspiracy.

MILTON: In one of the congressional hearings, the FBI testified that there were no eye witnesses to the crash that described seeing a missile. And this is a point that critics have pounced on in later years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could you give us some information on how many witnesses on the ground or in other airplanes at the time believe they saw something coming from the ground headed toward that plane?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I wouldn't want to say that they all saw something coming from the ground. There were about 200 people that saw events in the sky that they described. None of which described a missile.

KALLSTROM: As I look back at the question, I could have probably been more articulate and said that, "A lot of the witnesses used the term missile and they were good people and they're not making up a story." But the reality is none of those people saw a missile. They had a description of what they saw that does not fit what a missile would actually look like.

LYCHNER: Do I feel like justice was served with this investigation? Yes, absolutely. I mean, I've been intricately involved in this investigation. I don't believe that there's anyone else other than other family members who have more of a vested interest in making certain that justice is served in this case. If I did not believe in the outcome of this crash that would clearly be a problem for me.

When this first happen, there were some very dark and cold and lonely nights. There were a lot of times I doubted the existence of God and I think, "God, how and why could you let something like this happen?" And when I was at the end of my rope and I was about to give it up, he -- every single time, he would send me somebody to carry me during those darkest days and then God gave me another family.

I married Brenda Bragg and had Rachel and Colt. And in some regards, I mean, I'm the luckiest man in the world. I have a family waiting for me in heaven and a family here to take care of me while I'm here.

GOGLIA: The case is never closed. The probably cause is never cast in concrete. It can always be changed if we have new physical evidence that would change our thinking on what happened.

KALLSTROM: In the end, I stood up and said, "I had 99.9 percent confidence there was not an act of terrorism." which means that if future investigative leads come in that result in looking at this, we will certainly do that. And that's the 0.1 percent that I'm leaving there.

PANETTA: Without question, it was, you know, a theory and it clearly could have been a possibility. But I think I was left with a feeling that, you know, in the end we might never really know what happened.

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