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French Flight 800 Families to Hire Own Investigator

November 12, 1996

PARIS (AP) _ Frustrated with the inconclusive probe into the explosion of TWA Flight 800, the families of French victims announced today they plan to hire their own investigator.

They will send an aviation expert to work ``in close collaboration″ with American officials and pass information back to the families, said Jose Cremades, president of the Victims of Flight 800 Association.

``The official investigation has been taking so long,″ Cremades told The Associated Press. ``They have pretty good knowledge of what’s going on, conclusions close at hand, but they can’t release them.″

Cremades, whose 15-year-old son, Daniel, died in the explosion, repeatedly complimented the National Transportation Safety Board, saying it was doing a ``fantastic job.″ But he said the U.S. agency was limited in what it could disclose.

The jet exploded July 17 off the coast of Long Island after taking off from Kennedy International Airport in New York City, killing all 230 people on board. Investigators say they haven’t yet discovered the cause of the explosion.

In recent days, speculation over the explosion’s origin briefly centered on the theory that it was shot down by a missile. Veteran American newsman Pierre Salinger said he had proof of U.S. missile testing in the area at the time of the crash.

However, the NTSB, the FBI and the U.S. military angrily denounced that report. Cremades said his association’s decision to hire an independent investigator was not connected to the controversy and was planned ``well in advance of Salinger’s statement.″

``Unlike Boeing and TWA, the families currently don’t have any direct access to the investigation. Right now our only information comes from the press,″ he said.

The lack of conclusions after four months, plus the strain of being 3,000 miles from the scene, have left some of the families distrustful of the official investigation, Cremates said.

``Most of the families are in contact with the investigators. We all recognize they’re being open and candid, but because it’s a foreign country, there’s some fear things are being covered up and lots of publicity here of a coverup,″ he said.

``Some families feel we will never know″ what downed the jet, he said.

The Flight 800 Association plans to meet in Washington with NTSB representatives but has not yet set a date, Cremades said.

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