FIRO Chairman Tom Stalcup (left) and FIRO FOIA Officer Graeme Sephton at an August 1999 press conference in Washington DC.
Formed in April of 1999, FIRO (Flight 800 Independent Researchers Organization) is a group dedicated to uncovering and publicizing the facts surrounding the crash of TWA Flight 800. Its membership includes former airline crash investigators, scientists, engineers, and aviation professionals.
FIRO has identified significant discrepancies in the official investigation and blames many on an unusual relationship between the FBI and the NTSB during the investigation. In violation of Title 49 of the federal code of regulations, which gives the NTSB "priority over all other investigations of such accident or incident conducted by other Federal agencies," the NTSB was repeatedly denied access to physical and eyewitness evidence collected by the FBI.
According to senior NTSB investigator Hank Hughes in a June 14, 1999 letter to the Senate Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts, "there are still unanswered questions concerning evidence sent for examination." Until at least such a time when the NTSB and the parties to the investigation are allowed to thoroughly access and review all of the evidence, reports, and analyses in the FBI's possession related to the crash of TWA Flight 800, the NTSB's final report will remain inconclusive and incomplete.
Past and Present Efforts
FIRO discovered unidentified radar targets near the crash that remain unaccounted for by federal investigators. FIRO's radar-based critique of the official crash scenario caused the NTSB to publicly acknowledge a critical error in their crash sequence simulations.
In May 2001, FIRO published a thorough eyewitness study, based on the analysis of the official database of eyewitness interview summaries and materials. The study found that a large majority of eyewitnesses to events early in the crash sequence reported a flare-like object rise upward toward Flight 800 and then explode into or near the jetliner.
In July of 2002, FIRO filed a petition with the NTSB that cites erroneous findings in the NTSB's final report, and includes evidence left unexplained by the NTSB. A formal response from the NTSB is expected shortly.
In the course of its research, FIRO has filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to obtain details of the official investigation not made public by federal investigators.
FIRO's goal is to compel the proper authorities to release currently secret or withheld data and evidence into the public domain so that the official crash scenario may be properly scrutinized.
We have studied the available government reports, consulted with federal investigators, met with the FBI and NTSB leadership, viewed the wreckage, interviewed dozens of eyewitnesses, and considered all of the theories for the crash that have emerged over the years. From this work, we have concluded that a crash sequence beginning with the detonation of a missile warhead fits the available evidence far better than any other proposed sequence. For a fully-referenced article describing our findings and probable cause determination, visit our probable cause page.
Although we have determined the most probable cause of the crash after a detailed review of the publicly available evidence, we remain open to all possible crash scenarios that may emerge from the review of any remaining classified or withheld documents.