TWA Flt 800 - Navy Lends Assistance

Accusations "reckless and a mistake,"
says co-author

by JOCS(AW) Gwyneth J. Schultz, USN
Navy News Service
picture, caption follows
A Navy diver cleans off the mask of fellow diver as he prepared to resume his dive from on board USS Grapple (ARS 53) in August 1996 during search and recovery operations on the ill-fated TWA Flight 800 crash site. Navy divers conducted nearly 700 dives assisting the NTSB and FBI in their investigations into the crash. U.S. Navy photograph by Journalist Second Class Ronald S. Flanders.
  WASHINGTON (NNS) -- In a written statement to CNN, Ian Goddard, co-author of the report accusing the Navy of shooting down TWA Flight 800, claims those charges were "reckless and a mistake."

Goddard shared the responsibility for that report with former ABC newsman Pierre Salinger and another individual, Mike Sommers. Together, they described an intricate conspiracy theory centered on a government cover-up following the crash. Goddard also maintained a web site which helped to sustain the conspiracy theory on the Internet.

After learning about the apology, National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Peter Goelz said Goddard had done real damage to many people, especially to the families, by charging that the Navy caused the deaths of their relatives through "friendly fire."

picture, caption follows
A Navy Diver returns to the surface with a piece of the wreckage of TWA Flight 800 from the floor of the Atlantic Ocean off Long Island. Floating in front of him is a hand-held sonar scanner. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate Chief Mark M. Reinhard.
  Goddard stated that he only used the conspiracy theory because he "wanted to give the government a black eye by any means that looked opportune. TWA 800 was just a vehicle for my larger agenda."

He apologized for wrongly accusing the Navy and "to those who believed in all my efforts and who are now upset with me for my change of mind." Goddard wanted to encourage distrust of the government and promote libertarian ideology.

The Navy was involved with what has been termed the largest salvage operation since the one following the attack on Pearl Harbor, as it assisted the NTSB and the FBI in their investigations by recovering more than 95% of the crashed airliner. Officials put the cost at $8 million, excluding military payroll.

During the 104 days in which the major Navy assistance took place, four Navy ships and three Navy-contracted vessels have participated in the operation along with more than 225 Navy divers. There were 120 Navy divers on station at the height of the operation. The Boeing 747 crashed into the Atlantic off Long Island July 17, 1996, shortly after take off from Kennedy International Airport.

Related pages:

  • The TWA Flight 800 operation - The Navy divers
  • Navy ships assisting the TWA Flight 800 operation.
  • Navy units and commands assisting the TWA Flight 800 operation.
  • The Navy's underwater surveillance equipment
  • Fact File page on LPDs - Amphibious Transport Dock Ships
  • Fact File page on LSDs - Dock Landing Ships
  • Fact File page on ARSs - Rescue and Salvage Ships
  • Navy Wire Service recounts other Navy efforts in incidents such as TWA Flight 800.
  • Learn about the Navy's rank structure.
  • Rear Adm. Edward K. Kristensen, Navy support coordinator - biography
  • Capt. Raymond S. McCord, Navy search and recovery efforts coordinator - biography
  •   Hundreds of square miles of ocean surface were searched by the U.S. Coast Guard during the initial search for victims and wreckage. Underwater efforts concentrated first on a 75 square mile location and then were narrowed to a 25 square mile debris field. Diving operations took place between 115 and 130 feet deep in 50-degree water. Visibility on the ocean bottom was normally between 12 and 15 feet but was reduced to zero during periods of heavy weather and current. Surface supplied divers were able to work for about an hour at a time on the bottom.

    Within the first week, Navy divers had found and recovered both the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder. For the first month, the divers were working around-the-clock shifts of 12 hours on and 12 hours off and recovered more than 50% of the aircraft's wreckage. The wreckage has been reconstructed and examined in a hangar in a Grumman facility in Calverton, N.Y.

    Navy divers also earned high praise from NTSB Vice Chairman Robert Francis. "These guys are doing a wonderful job out there and I think they deserve everyone's thanks," he said last July 26. "I just continue to be so impressed with the talent and the facilities that are out there."

    Navy divers conducted 677 surface-supplied dives and were part of the 3,167 SCUBA dives conducted by Navy, FBI, New York State Police, Suffolk County Police, and New York City Police divers. A total of 1,689 hours was spent on the bottom by all these divers.


    Reviewed: 16 September 2009