Former transportation inspector calls TWA accusations 'not believable'

By Valencia

LONG ISLAND, NEW YORK (WCIV) - It took four years for the National Transportation Safety Board to find out what caused a TWA airplane to crash in 1996. Now a group of former federal employees says the investigation was rigged.

"The investigation covered the possibility of a missile or exploding ordinance outside the plane," said Mary Schiavo, former inspector general for the United States Department of Transportation.

Two-hundred-thirty people died as a result of the crash.

Six former investigators who worked on the case now claim the National Transportation Safety Board silenced them from telling the whole truth about the cause of the crash.

Schiavo, who now lives in the Lowcountry, helped to evaluate the investigation. She says after piecing the plane back together, an investigating team was able to come up with a probable cause of the crash.

"I've been on the TWA wreckage," said Schiavo. "It is preserved til this day in a hanger near Dulles Airport. And you can see very clearly where that center wing tank exploded."

Schiavo says heat played a major role in the July 17, 1996 explosion.

{}"The auto ignition temperature of an empty center wing tank is 153 degrees," said Schiavo. "They replicated that in tests and you got to 153 degrees just sitting on the tarmac with the air conditioning running. That fuel tank could have very well exploded on the ground."

The group of former investigators will release a documentary on the crash in July.

"I think these people are just hyping this documentary that's coming out," said Schiavo. "And if they had real evidence that wasn't explored, if they sat there as a federal employee for 17 years and sat on it and didn't report it, I think they were derelict in their duties."

The group also wants the NTSB to re-evaluate the case.

The National Transportation Safety Board says it will review any petition it receives from the documentary's producers.

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