Accuracy in Media
Weekly Column

A Mind-Changing TWA Flight 800 Report

By Reed Irvine
July 23, 1998

Dr. Vernon L. Grose, a high-profile defender of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) theory that TWA Flight 800 was destroyed by a fuel tank explosion, underwent a major change of mind on July 20 at a three-hour briefing on the cause of the crash. A former NTSB board member and consultant to CNN, Dr.Grose has appeared on national television frequently to defend the government's theory.

Curiosity took him to the briefing where a 109-page report showing that the evidence doesn't support the fuel tank theory was released by Cmdr. William S. Donaldson. Dr. Grose told reporters when he left the briefing by Donaldson and others that it had changed his mind. He said he had been misled by the NTSB and he could no longer defend their explanation of the cause of the crash. He made his next TV appearance that night with Bill Donaldson, this time criticizing the NTSB, not defending it.

Dr. Grose's epiphany didn't make the major network evening news that night. The Washington Times was the only paper that reported it the next morning. The mainstream media aren't interested in evidence that clashes with the government line on TWA Flight 800.

CNN got into big trouble for ignoring the evidence and allowing itself to be guided by the belief that the government had lied about Operation Tailwind. It wasted eight months trying to prove that our military used poison gas in Laos, disregarding all evidence to the contrary. It was roundly criticized by other media. But almost all reporting on the crash of TWA Flight 800 rests on the belief that the government would not lie. The media are not interested in evidence that disproves the official theory of the crash. At the briefing, three of more than a hundred eyewitnesses who saw a missile blow the plane out of the sky gave convincing accounts of what they saw. Some of the reporters gave them the same treatment that CNN's April Oliver gave to the Tailwind veterans who told her she was wrong about the use of poison gas.

Evidence that the government has concealed evidence that doesn't support the fuel-tank theory doesn't bother these reporters. They help conceal what has leaked out. They lack the expertise to critically analyze the evidence the government feeds them. Like CNN with the Tailwind story, they are wedded to a theory and dismissive of anything that contradicts it.

The briefing that changed Vernon Grose's mind made no impression on the Associated Press reporter who was there. The AP sent its clients a 280-word story that didn't mention a single one of the many items of evidence that so impressed Dr.Grose. It didn't even report that his mind was changed. The Washington Times added comments by Dr. Grose to the AP story, including this: "I changed my mind today on what I think caused it. I think it's more than likely that there was a close proximity missile hit." The AP saw nothing newsworthy in that.

When Donaldson interviewed eyewitnesses to the crash, he plotted their location and the location of the missile they saw. Triangulation indicated that the first missile was launched about a mile from the barrier island off the Long Island coast. Paul Angelides who was only 2000 yards away, heard the launch and saw the missile. He said it shook his house. He tracked it until it exploded seven miles to the south.

Al Gipe, a World War II gunnery officer, from his boat 25 miles south of the island, saw what he thought was an emergency flare go up about 15 miles to the north. It shot up like a tracer bullet, south to north, exploding high in the sky after a few seconds. The estimated launch point was about three miles south of the crash site. Two missiles, one from the north and one from the south exploded almost simultaneously close enough to the airliner to destroy it.

The Islip radar showed a large ship where the second missile was launched. When the airliner exploded, this ship headed out to sea doing 30 knots. Its size and speed rule out a merchant ship. Racing out to sea instead of heading for the accident site makes it highly suspicious. Donaldson has tried in vain to get the FBI and the NTSB to identify this and three other ships that were near the crash site.

Donaldson believes the second missile broke off the tail section of the plane at about the same time the nose was separated. The tail and parts of seats in the last row were found close to the nose in the debris field. They showed no evidence of fire or sooting, indicating that the break occurred before the fuel tank exploded. Donaldson charged that the NTSB tried to conceal this evidence, knowing that it clashed with the fuel-tank theory.

The briefing prompted Adm. Thomas H. Moorer to renew his call for a Congressional investigation. Donaldson's complete report is on the Internet at It shows what changed the mind of Vernon Grose, one of the NTSB's staunchest supporters. It may change yours as well.


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