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TWA 800 families to press airline for compensation

graphic December 14, 1996
Web posted at: 11:00 p.m. EST

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Families of victims of TWA Flight 800 will press the airline for immediate compensation for those who lost the primary source of income as a result of the crash, a spokesman for the families said Saturday.

The announcement came after family members held a closed-door meeting to discuss various matters concerning the crash.

Jose Cremades, a family spokesman whose son was killed aboard Flight 800, said a representative would meet with TWA officials on Monday to push for funds for families who have been financially crippled since the July 17 explosion.

Asked if TWA was less than responsive to families' needs, Cremades said: "Five months have elapsed and in those five months, we haven't had any approach from TWA to help the families."

Families also agreed that claims they file for the $75,000 compensation authorized under the Warsaw Convention for deaths in international aviation would not resolve any other claims they might make. Several lawsuits have already been filed claiming damages.

"This does not preclude anything else," he said.

Cremades also said families decided that a memorial should be built for the victims, but where it will be located or how it will be financed has not been decided.

All 230 people on board Flight 800 were killed when the plane exploded and plunged into the Atlantic Ocean off New York's Long Island.

Briefing on investigation status

Earlier Saturday, federal officials briefed families of TWA Flight 800 victims, updating them on the status of the crash investigation. Cremades called the briefing "worthwhile," but added that no new developments were released.


"We didn't hear very much new," Cremades said.

"The official position is still, 'We are considering the possibility of a bomb, the possibility of a missile, the possibility of an electrical fault in the plane.'"

About 100 family members, including 28 Europeans, attended the State Department briefing. Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board, FBI and Navy told the families that the probe is still focusing on what caused the center fuel tank to explode.

Cremades said the families appreciated investigators taking time to speak with them. He added that the families realize investigators are working under numerous constraints and can only release limited details.

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"We are convinced they have a lot more information, but we understand why they cannot release it," he said.


An increasing concern among family members, Cremades said, is that the plane was brought down by a missile. To that end, investigators addressed the issue Saturday.

"In the material they have recovered, they have not found any evidence of damage by a missile or a bomb," Cremades told reporters in a news conference.

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Reporters were not allowed to attend the briefing.

The meeting began with a moment of silence, followed by the reading of a poem in four languages honoring those who died on Flight 800.

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FBI not upset at NTSB, spokesman says

Meanwhile, an FBI spokesman said Saturday that the agency is not at odds with the NTSB for its urgent recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration for airline safety improvements.

On Friday, the NTSB urged the FAA to require airlines to make design and operational changes to reduce the danger of center fuel tank explosions. News reports had suggested FBI Assistant Director James Kallstrom was upset at the NTSB for prematurely hinting that mechanical failure was to blame for the explosion of Flight 800.

FBI spokesman Joe Valiquette denied the reports. "The fact of the matter is that all three theories -- a bomb, a missile or mechanical failure -- continue to be under active investigation."

He added that Kallstrom believed it was NTSB's duty to pass along such recommendations.

The NTSB said the urgent recommendations were a result of its "ongoing investigation into TWA Flight 800," but emphasized "investigators have not reached any conclusions as to the cause of the accident."


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