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Plane Probe Now Focusing On Seating Source Says Investigation Looking At Rows 17 To 28

Thu., Aug. 15, 1996

The search for what blew apart TWA Flight 800 was focusing on the front of the coach section - rows 17 to 28, a source close to the investigation told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

“We speculate that some kind of event took place between those rows,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The seats were above the center fuel tank, an area from which little debris has been recovered. What pieces have been found show evidence of an extensive fire.

Investigators continue to speculate that if the aircraft was downed by a bomb, it may have been placed in carry-on luggage under a seat or in a food cart.

Searchers want to examine everything from the cabin - seats, carpeting, the interior wall and the overhead bins. Experts have said any fabric recovered may hold any evidence of a bomb better than hard-surfaced wreckage.

The source said those pieces likely settled to the ocean floor in debris field 3, the area of wreckage closest to Kennedy International Airport where authorities say the first pieces fell from the sky.

One of the few pieces recovered so far from that area was “a very little piece” of a bulkhead, an interior wall, the source said.

The FBI has still not approached any of the victims’ relatives for interviews, though it plans to. There was no indication that individual passengers in rows 17 to 28 were considered more important to the investigation.

For weeks, authorities have said the July 17 explosion that killed all 230 people aboard was caused by either a bomb, a missile or a mechanical malfunction. Those theories remained alive Wednesday.

Meantime, after a day of rough weather delayed recovery efforts, divers returned to the water Wednesday and came back with three barges of wreckage, including a large piece from the rear fuselage. It had no visible burn marks but was badly twisted. An “Exit” sign was visible.

Another large section of fuselage showed no burn marks, and four intact windows were visible.

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