Flight 800 mourners gather on LI, marking 25th anniversary of tragedy

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Mourners were returning to Smith Point County Park on Saturday night to remember those aboard TWA Flight 800, which crashed in the Atlantic off the south coast of Long Island exactly 25 years ago.

About 150 people were at the memorial in the park south of Center Moriches just after 7 p.m., before a ceremony which was due to start at 7:30 p.m.

Family members of the victims have gathered at the memorial site every year on the anniversary of the crash, except last year, during the COVID-19 pandemic. They and their friends stood, holding carnations, on the nearby shore as the names of the 230 people on board were read near sunset, around the same time the jet crashed about 10 miles away. off the coast.

Smith Point is the closest public access point to where the crash debris field was found.

Among the victims of the 747 crash were at least nine residents of Long Island – from Long Beach, New Hyde Park, North Massapequa, Northport and Manorville.

Frank Lombardi, who helps organize and maintain the memorial, said images of the airliner explosion were etched in his memory as news of the tragedy spread 25 years ago.

“I was on the Long Island Expressway late at night when I heard it on the radio and made it home as fast as I could. The first image I saw was the ocean on fire. “said Lombardi.

“I was really trying to figure out, did this really happen? When you see the ocean on fire, it took a while for something like that to happen on Long Island.”

The flight to Paris and Rome exploded and rained debris at 8:31 p.m. on July 17, 1996, just 12 minutes after takeoff from Kennedy Airport. Once the aircraft reached an altitude of 13,800 feet, air traffic controllers lost radar and contact with the pilot.

It took years to determine the cause of the accident. The National Transportation Safety Board ruled the crash was likely triggered by a power shortage of faulty wiring, igniting fumes in the plane’s fuel tank, triggering the explosion.

This year’s memorial drew notable attention, Lombardi said, after investigators announced that the aircraft’s reconstructed parts pulled from the Atlantic would ultimately be destroyed after the plane was reassembled, first in a aircraft hangar in Calverton, then in Washington, DC

The investigation attempted to put an end to the families and put an end to the swirling conspiracy theories after the crash.

“It took years to figure out what caused the crash because if you look at the reconstruction there were so many parts,” Lombardi said. “How can anyone know that?” It was like a needle in a haystack full of needles.

This year also marks the first anniversary of the deaths of NTSB Senior Investigator Bob Francis and FBI Investigator James Kallstrom. François died in April; Kallstrom passed away earlier this month.

Lombardi is also the acting director of Independent Group Home Living, which maintains the memorial, which was opened in 2002. He said he had grown closer to the families of the TWA passengers as they returned to the memorial from the around the world every year.

“We hope this will give families a local home for the memorial,” Lombardi said. “It means something different for each member of the family.”

Check back for updates to this developing story.


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