July 28, 1996
Editor: Joseph Trainor
An unidentified flying object was seen by a couple in Johnston, Rhode Island 45 minutes before the explosion that downed TWA Flight 800.
At 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 17, 1996, Richard and Fran Shea of Manville, R.I. were driving north on Interstate Route 295 when they saw the UFO. They reported their sighting in a letter to the editor. (Providence, R.I. Journal-Bulletin, July 24, 1996, page B-7)
The Sheas wrote, "We would just like to know if anybody driving north on Route 295 on July 17 at about 7:30 p.m. saw an object in the sky to the northeast. It first appeared as gray, then disappeared and quickly reappeared as silvery. It was not an airplane. Was there anybody else out there who saw this?"
Route 295 is six miles west of Providence and approximately 70 air miles northeast of the TWA Flight 800 crash site south of Islip, N.Y.
Thirty minutes after the Shea sighting, five people in Toronto saw a UFO near Lester Pearson International Airport. The four are amateur researchers and members of MUFON Ontario. The quartet was in the neighborhood of Eglinton Avenue West at the time.
According to eyewitness Susan K., "On Wednesday, July 17, between 8:00 and 8:30 p.m., I saw a white object in the sky that was not a vapour trail, helicopter, blimp, bird or plane. At first the other three people I was with said it was part of a jet's tail. The view was of the west toward Toronto's airport. I kept watching it and was convinced it was none of these. They became curious when I kept insisting they look again. We are UFO investigators and could not label it. It took approximately 20 minutes to reach the airport, which usually takes five (minutes) for conventional aircraft. There were many planes in the sky, but this thing just sauntered across the sky. It was cylindrical shaped, at arm's length about one-quarter inch, with no lights." (Note: The flight path of Susan's UFO would have taken it past Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Downsview, between Sheppard and Wilson Avenues.)
Although, as of this writing, Uncle Sam is sticking with the "bomb aboard" theory, contrary evidence has been popping up all week. Here's what UFO ROUNDUP has gleaned from the myriad newspaper reports.
"More than 100 people claim to have seen the 747 blow up in midair Wednesday night (July 17) off the coast of Long Island. At least 10 of those witnesses said they saw a strange light racing to the plane before it exploded. 'We thought it was a missile,' said one of two military pilots who saw the blast from the windows of a commercial flight told ABC News."
"Janet Penney of Center Moriches, Long Island, saw the tragic end of Flight 800 from her husband's 40-foot boat. 'We thought it was a flare, a small white light that grew larger as it passed through the sky. That was the first impression, that it was a flare, shooting star or perhaps the light of an airplane,' said Penney."
"Nick Castoro, owner of Cerullo Brothers Fishing Station in East Moriches told told the (Boston) Herald yesterday (July 23) he has been questioned by FBI agents about what he saw. 'They asked me if I saw anything headed toward the plane before it blew up'...But Castoro did not see anything until the plane burst into an orange glow above him. 'I saw a flash, like what looked like a sparkler,' Castoro said. 'It broke up into four pieces and just came down." (Boston, Mass. Herald, July 24, 1996, page 3)
CNN Headline News confirmed Castoro's story on Saturday, July 27, during its 9 p.m. broadcast, telling viewers that the radar operators in the tower at Islip, N.Y. airport had a tape showing radar images of TWA Flight 800 in five pieces continuing downrange for three miles following the explosion.
The FBI special agent in charge James "Kallstrom declined comment last night (July 22) on which theory the agency is favoring, nor would he confirm reports that U.S. spy satellites picked up images of an object striking the plane at an altitude of 13,700 feet." (Boston Herald, July 23, 1996, page 4)
"Despite earlier dismissals, the FBI says a rocket attack remains a possibility. Agents are interviewing eyewitnesses, including a Coast Guard officer, who saw they saw a streak of light rise toward the jetliner before it exploded into flames." (USA Today, July 23, 1996, page 1)
"A local official, who did not wish to be identified, told the (New York) Post that spy-satellite pictures show an airborne object changing direction to smash into the doomed plane. The photos--taken by a U.S. military satellite in orbit above Long Island's Brookhaven National Laboratory--show an object racing up to the Paris-bound 747, passing it, then changing course and crashing into it, said a source involved in the wide-ranging investigation. It remained unclear what the object was, and investigators yesterday (July 21) were tight-lipped as the long, painstaking slog to collect evidence continued." (New York Post, July 22, 1996, page 4)
An armed New York National Guard search party--an eight-man squad-- was photographed by AP on July 21, looking for debris on the beaches of East Hampton, N.Y.
"There is a report that the FBI talked to more than 100 witnesses, who told of seeing something that looked like a flare or a missile heading toward the plane." A Rhode Island man named John Jordan searched for wreckage in the area for two days and told his local newspaper, "'I really got the impression down there that nobody even wanted to think about missiles; it was too horrible a thought. But it just doesn't smell right the other way,' he says. Jordan was at the crash scene for two days helping to reconfigure a construction barge owned by Jamestown Marine Services and Weeks Salvage Company for possible use in the salvage operation. After two days of hard labor, those in charge decided to call in two high-tech Navy barges instead." (Providence, R.I. Journal-Bulletin, July 26, 1996, page C-3)
"Witness accounts, meanwhile, have led investigators to look more closely at the possibility that a surface-to-air (SAM) missile knocked the 747 from the skies. In a brief interview, Kallstrom said the FBI had statements from about 100 credible witnesses, 10 of whom said they saw a bright streak arc toward the jet before it exploded...(NTSB vice chairman Robert) Francis said he knew of no missile testing by U.S. military groups in the area. Kallstrom declined comment." (Duluth, Minn. News-Tribune, July 23, 1996)
"Francis said analysis of radar and black box data shows that the plane remained aloft for 41 seconds after it lost electric power, cutting off both the recorders and the radar transponder. He did not speculate whether crew or passengers were alive at that time...The investigator said the information gained from the black boxes and radar is remarkably consistent with eyewitness accounts, especially with the version told by nine pilots were in the air at the time...(FBI) agents have interviewd a number of witnesses who recall seeing something in the air "ascending" toward the aircraft, possibly the track of a ground- to-air missile." (Providence, R.I. Journal-Bulletin, July 27, 1996)
"'We do have some information that there was something in the sky,' Kallstrom said at a daily briefing about the crash investigation. 'A number of people have seen it, a number of people have described it' --some similarly, he added. 'We've done some investigating to satisfy ourselves that scenario should not be taken off the board--and it's not.' Kallstrom said the object, according to eyewitnesses, 'was ascending' toward the plane. In the stunning hours following the crash, a number of witnesses told reporters they had seen what looked like a 'flare' in the sky before the plane exploded in a terrifying red-orange ball of flames, breaking apart and plunging into the water below. Kallstrom refused to talk about whether such an object was picked up on radar." (New York Post, July 27, 1996, page 2)
"NTSB official Norman Wiemeyer confirmed that in the 24 seconds after the plane's transponder signals died, the plane appears as a single image on radar. By 36 seconds after the apparent explosion, it appeared to be 'in more than five' pieces. Wiemeyer said it was possible this meant passengers and crew may have been aware of what was happening to them in the final seconds before the plane broke up and fell." (Boston Herald, July 28, 1996, page 7)
Some continuing mysteries surrounding the crash--Several witnesses claim to have seen "the white light" ascending, not descending, and a few claim that it circled TWA Flight 800 at least twice.
One witness aboard a boat in Sandy Hook Bay claims to have seen "the light streak" first in the southeastern sky, i.e. the open Atlantic, and then watched it moving north toward Long Island.
Boaters in the Hamptons claim to have heard the "pinging" of Flight 800's two black boxes on Thursday, July 18. The black boxes, which transmit at 37.5 KHz, reportedly caused interference with the boaters' sonar fish-finders. The black boxes were not recovered for another week.
The biggest mystery of all is how a baggage compartment bomb or a Stinger missile could have knocked the Boeing 747 out of the sky. Christopher Ronay, who retired in 1994, headed the FBI's bomb unit for seven years and investigated 30 aircraft bombings. He said, "I can't recall anything that has had a catastrophic effect like this case. You could blow the hell out of the cargo compartment with a luggage bomb, but you have to blow up a fuel cell or an engine to get an explosion like that." (Providence, R.I. Journal-Bulletin, July 22, 1996)
"'Could a Stinger have done it? That's not an easy-to-answer question,' said Lt. Col. Mike Monnett, an Army spokesman. 'While not directed to do so, the Army's Missile Command did some computer modeling, crunched all the data and determined it was not outside the realm of possibility, but that it's also not possible." However, Lt. Col. Monnett conceded, "'If a missile hit a wing full of aviation fuel, you'd have the fuel mixing with the atmosphere, which could produce an explosion.'" (Providence, R.I. Journal-Bulletin, July 24, 1996)
Finally, there's another strange twist to the Iranian/UFO air battle connection. Earlier in 1976, a Spanish Boeing 747-100 exploded and plunged into the sea. Like TWA 800, this plane, too, had served in the Shah's air force during 1975. (USA Today, July 24).
On Wednesday, July 3, 1996, at 9:30 p.m., three people in Urbana, Ohio observed a "glowing red object" traveling across the sky from north to south. The UFO was observed a a former USAF officer who served in the Gulf War and operated Hawk missile systems. Trained at Fort Bliss, he has extensive training in identification of all types of aircraft. He stated that the glowing UFO was surrounded by five F-14 jet interceptors. The jets, strangely, made no sound as they passed overhead. The UFO then vanished, while the F-14s "flew around for awhile, as if they were looking for it."
On Monday, July 8, an Urbana resident Phoned Tristates Advocates for Scientific Knowledge (T.A.S.K.) and reported a UFO flying over the Odd Lots Department Store on Scioto Drive. According to T.A.S.K. researcher Kenneth Young, "the object was described as a self-luminous ball of red light and was traveling at the speed of an airplane, traversing the sky from east to west and (looked) as big as a dime held at arm's length."
On Wednesday, July 10, at 11 p.m., three obervers in Owensville, Ohio reported a UFO hovering above the Zebulon Park apartment complex. This "glowing red object" hovered in position for about 30 minutes, leaving two of the witnesses "stunned" by the sight.
On Thursday, July 18, at 3:25 a.m., an Owensville resident phoned the Clermont County Sheriff's Department and reported a UFO hovering over a field adjacent to his home. This UFO was described as a glowing red light. As the police cruiser arrived, the UFO drifted to the right and dropped into concealing shrubbery. The deputy found nothing amiss and left. As soon as he was gone, the witness said, the UFO returned to its former position "and resumed its previous level of luminosity." Again the witness called the sheriff, and this time three cruisers responded to the call. Again the UFO ducked into the nearby woods. The deputies searched the area for 30 minutes and found nothing. After they departed, the UFO rose again. This time the witness did not bother to call. Instead he watched the UFO until it vanished shortly before daybreak.
Yes, it was a strange week in Clermont County. On Friday, July 12, a resident of Loveland phoned WLW Radio (700 AM on your dial) and reported "a very large object surrounded by very bright white lights." The WLW deejay said the caller sounded "very serious, very scared."
T.A.S.K. members also investigated the appearance of a crop circle on July 4 in Paulding County, Ohio. A pilot taking his family out for a flight spotted the circle from the air. Upon landing, he contacted Dan Arend, owner of the property. At 8:30 p.m., Mr. Arend phoned Sheriff Daniel T. Harrow. Investigating officers found that the field's wheat had been levelled to the ground in a counterclockwise direction. There were no visible tracks leading to or from the site, located just off Township Road 126.
The crop circle was photographed July 8. Several scientists visited the scene, including Jim Timmerman of Chicago's Center for UFO Studies. The crop circle was soon branded a hoax. However, on July 11, a team from Eastern Michigan University found that the wheat within the circle was radioactive. According to T.A.S.K. field investigator Dale Farmer, the circle registered 60 clicks on their Geiger counter, as opposed to 30 clicks found within the surrounding area.
Last week KETV-Channel 7, an ABC affiliate in Omaha, reported that a pilot had seen a UFO flying over Millard, Nebraska. The pilot said, "It was moving in ways that aren't possible for any earthly craft. It was composed of different colored lights."
On Tuesday, July 23, the Omaha World-Herald reported that Kelly Reiser, 25, was driving on Highway 11 when she noticed a crop circle 25 feet in diameter, surrounded by a two-foot wall of standing barley and a four-foot outer circle of flattened grass.
"It's too smooth and round," Boyd County Sheriff Duane Pavel said. "I don't really understand what could have made it. Normally when the wind takes it down, it takes it all down. It's really strange."
A photo of the crop circle appeared in the July 25 issue of the Lincoln, Nebraska Journal-Star.
While listening to the radio in Prague, Czech Republic, on July 25, our Eastern Europe correspondent, Wanda C., heard a broadcast about a UFO wave in the small countries that were once part of the old Soviet Union. UFOs have been seen every night since July 18 in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kygaristan and Turkmenistan. Rural families have reportedly been watching the overflights every night. No word of any UFO sightings in Tashkent or Samarkand, though. And that goes for any UFO sighting you hear about.
More saucer news next week from "the paper that goes home."
See you then.