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NTSB Concludes Explosion of Center Fuel Tank Caused TWA 800 Crash

Aired August 22, 2000 - 2:30 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Federal investigators say they have reached an inescapable conclusion: that an explosion in the center fuel tank caused the 1996 crash of TWA Flight 800. The National Transportation Safety Board began presenting its final investigative report today in Washington.

CNN's Carl Rochelle joins us from our Washington bureau with the story -- Carl.

CARL ROCHELLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, this is the work of the investigators, more than four years working, probing through the causes of the crash, conducting experiments on their own, trying to figure out exactly what caused that plane to go down, at least as best they could.

Now, they told us early on this morning that they had ruled out a bomb, they had ruled out a criminal act, they had ruled out a missile taking the plane down: that it was in fact the center fuel tank explosion that caused that the plane to fall out of the sky.

One of the interesting questions, though, is what caused that fuel to ignite. They don't know for sure and they say they may never know for sure, but Bernie Loeb, who is the head of the Office of Aviation Safety at the National Transportation Safety Board says they have a very good idea. This is what his scenario sounds like.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BERNARD LOEB, OFFICE OF AVIATION SAFETY, NTSB: Although the voltage in the fuel quantity indication system wiring is limited by design to a very low level, a short circuit from higher-voltage wires could allow excess of voltage to be transferred to the fuel quantity indication system wires and enter the fuel tank.

We cannot be certain that this in fact occurred, but of all the ignition scenarios that we considered, this scenarios is the most likely.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROCHELLE: A little on the technical side, but what Bernie is really telling you is that a high-voltage wire sort of jumped and arced over to a low-voltage wire that went down into the fuel tank, and they believe that most likely that is what caused the fuel vapors in that tank to ignite, caused it to blow up, caused the plane to fall out of the sky.

I'm Carl Rochelle, CNN, reporting live from Washington.

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