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Sketch 649
Drawing made by Witness 649. Click to enlarge. (Typed notations and arrows added by FIRO)

Witness sketches get no sunlight at 'Sunshine Hearing'

Eyewitnesses provided federal investigators with hand drawings of what they saw happen in the sky the night Flight 800 went down, but none were displayed or discussed at the National Transportation Safety Boardís (NTSB) Sunshine Hearing held in August 2000--a hearing open to the public, as required by the "Government in the Sunshine Act."

Now, months after the Sunshine Hearing, thirty witness documents, including various drawings and graphics, remain officially listed by the FBI as lost.[1] Meanwhile, the available sketches are highly consistent with one another and tell a tale far different than the governmentís now official explanation that the jetliner was downed by a spark in a fuel tank.

Click Sketches to Enlarge

Sketch 649Sketch 220
Sketch 174Sketch 530

Sketch 224

Figure 1: Five eyewitness drawings depicting their respective views of the crash. Click on individual drawings to enlarge. (Typed notations and arrows added by FIRO) All above drawings can be found in the appendices of Ref. [2].

The above pictures show an object rising and moving toward JFK Airport and then exploding at its apex, followed by Flight 800's fiery descent. At the Sunshine Hearing, NTSB Witness Group Chairman, Dr. David Mayer mentioned the FBIís interview summary of witness 649, saying his testimony was inconsistent with a missile strike. Witness 649ís drawing (shown above and attached to his summary) was never displayed.

According to Dr. Mayer, witness 649 could not have seen a missile because he was initially looking where Flight 800 crashed, not where it exploded in midair.[3] But according to witness 649, his attention was drawn to the west (right) of this initial position, as the object he was watching "arced off to the right."[4] This object then collided with a second airborne object at a position and altitude consistent with where Flight 800 lost electrical power[5]. See above drawing by witness 649.

"object number one impacted
with object number two"

--Eyewitness 649 FBI Summary[4]

Prior to the Sunshine Hearing, the NTSB held another public hearing in December 1997. Less than a week before, the FBI cancelled the eyewitness portion of the hearing, stating that there was a "remote" chance that the FBI criminal investigation could be re-opened[6]. The above pictures, together with 736 FBI witness summaries (258 reporting a "streak of light") would not be publicly released for another two and a half years.[2]

Access to witness names and many of their locations was exclusively reserved for the FBI, during their active criminal investigation. FBI agents conducted most of the early witness interviews, collecting statements as well as the pictures shown above. Soon thereafter, according to FBI Special Agent Ted Otto,"the FBI began to suspect that a missile might have been used against flight 800 because so many eyewitness accounts included descriptions of a flare-like object or fireworks in the sky prior to the appearance of a large fireball."[2] This suspicion caused FBI agents to speculate that "any missile must have been fired from a ship beneath the plane."[7](London Times, 7/23/96)

Meanwhile, the Suffolk County Police spearheaded an effort to determine the origin of the rising streak by triangulating the eyewitness' lines of sight in different locations. The streak's origin could be approximated where these lines crossed, helping confirm or deny the FBI theory of a ship-launched missile. The positions[5] of various radar-tracked ships below the aircraft could have been compared to the results of a thorough triangulation study

But without full access to the eyewitnesses, the Suffolk County Police were only able to complete two small-scale triangulation exercises. The FBI lost the results of one study,[1] and the other represents only eleven out of 258 "streak of light" witnesses.[8] The FBI, with full access to all the witnesses and their information, never organized a triangulation study. One month after the crash, the task of re-interviewing witnesses was suspended with most never contacted again.

The FBI, with full access to all
the witnesses and their information,
never organized a triangulation study.

The FBI shelved their investigation in November of 1997, but the NTSB continued to focus on the mechanical malfunction theory. This theory blames a spark inside a fuel tank for the crash. A CIA animation of the crash sequence supporting the mechanical theory claims that what eyewitnesses saw was the doomed jetliner "in various stages of crippled flight after it exploded."[9]

The sketches conflict with that scenario. They show an object rising from the surface and heading west before any midair explosions. According to federal radar experts and debris field analysts, Flight 800 began to break up at an altitude of 13,800 feet (2.6 miles) after a midair explosion, crashing into the ocean over two miles east of its initial distress position.[5] Nonetheless, the NTSB stuck to the "crippled flight" explanation and excluded witness sketches from both public hearings on the crash.

An ongoing, independent investigation is attempting to determine the origin of the streak of light by conducting a thorough triangulation exercise, which includes using eyewitness sketches. Preliminary results have determined the origin of the streak to be consistent with the nearest surface vessel to the crash. Although this vessel was tracked by radar, it is the only one out of several dozen that the FBI has allegedly been "unable to identify."[10]

Update (12/26/00): A witness sketch similar to one the FBI cannot locate has been found by independent researcher Ian Goddard. Naneen Levine, the first eyewitness interviewed by authorities, drew a sketch of her observations in front of CNN's cameras. Suffolk County police detectives got in touch with Levine after the broadcast and retrieved a sketch the night of the crash. This sketch is presently listed by the FBI as "unable to locate."[1] Goddard, who taped Levine's CNN interview, maintains an image of her CNN drawing here.

Click here for FIRO's article featuring Levine's sketch.

See also: Ian Goddard's webpage with Levine's drawing.

The Eyewitnesses: A Brief Review of Official Declarations

Eyewitness Quotes

CNN crash scenario report with reference to eyewitness Naneen Levine.
Note: CNN graphics show Flight 800 travelling left to right. Flight 800 was heading east, and thus moving right to left to witnesses looking south from Long Island. A "flare" rising from left to right, described by Levine or any other south-gazing witness, is inconsistent with the flight path of TWA 800--the official explanation for this rising flare.[9]


1. Mayer, D., Witness Group Chairman's Factual Report: Appendix EE, NTSB Public Docket, 2000.

2. Mayer, D., Witness Group Chairman's Factual Report. NTSB Public Docket, 2000.

3. NTSB, Final Board Meeting on TWA Flight 800, 2nd Day, Part 3, Transcripts in Public Docket, 2000.

4. FBI, Appendix H to Witness Group Factual Report. NTSB Public Docket, 2000.

5. Pereira, C., et al., Airplane Performance Study. NTSB Public Docket, 1997.

6. Kallstrom, J., Letter to NTSB Chairman Jim Hall, December 3, 1997.

7. 'Streak of light' reports raise pssibility of missile fired from ship, London Times, July 23, 1996.

8. Mayer, D., Witness Group Study Report, NTSB Public Docket, 2000.

9. CIA, "TWA Flight 800: What Did the Witnesses See [video]" FBI November 1997 Press Conference.

10. Schiliro, L. D., FBI Letter to Cogressman James A. Traficant, July 27, 1998.

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