On July 17th, 1996, TWA Flight 800 took off from JFK Airport, on the way to Paris, but it suddenly exploded in the air, near East Moriches, Long Island. While the National Transportation Safety Board said it was an accidental explosion ("ignition of the flammable fuel/air mixture in the tank"), many witnesses are convinced they saw a missile or missiles bring the plane down. Now a former pilot for President Obama has explained why questions remain.

Two hundred thirty people were killed, and the FBI took over the investigation because of terrorism fears. Andrew Danzinger, who flew a campaign plane for Obama and has 28 years of flying experience (he was an international 757/767 pilot for 14 years), tells the Daily News that he's repeatedly asked whether TWA Flight 800 was shot down, "I’m no conspiracy theorist, but let’s be clear: Yes. I say it was. And I believe the FBI covered it up... Lots can go wrong with an airplane. Engines can fail; they can catch fire. Devices can malfunction. Pilots make errors. But jets do not explode in midair." He notes, based on conversations with TWA employees, that the FBI wouldn't allow TWA's mechanics to examine wreckage that supposedly contributed to the explosion and suggests the FBI obstructed the investigation.

Then he raises the missile theory:

After the explosion, more than three dozen witnesses reported they’d seen contrails going up into the sky towards the plane; 18 of those people said they saw something coming up from the water, rising to meet the plane.

The FBI only summarized the interviews in its reports; the witnesses weren’t permitted to see what was written or to review the reports, and the NTSB only received summary reports in which all personal information was redacted. And maybe most importantly, the witnesses — there were more than 700 of them — weren’t permitted to testify.

Among those witnesses were people who attended a wedding on a beach in the Moriches, which was in progress at the time of the explosion. Some of them were recording the ceremony, their cameras trained on the wedding party with the ocean and sky in the background. Many of these people witnessed the explosion, and some said they saw something rising from the water.

During the investigation, holes were discovered in parts of the aircraft skin that penetrated from outside in — evidence that an object, most likely a missile — had struck the plane. But when investigators began photographing that evidence, according to my former colleague who was there, the FBI told them to stop.

A documentary was released in 2013, claiming missiles took the plane down:

A writer for Flying Magazine suggested that the film's theory about three missiles is wrong, but Danzinger writes, "[A]s an experienced commercial pilot, I know this much: Planes do not blow up by themselves. I firmly believe that this plane was shot down. I also believe my friend when he says the FBI imposed limits on what investigators could and couldn’t analyze... If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck. Or bull."

There is a memorial for TWA Flight 800 at Smith Point County Park.