The mysterious streak of light seen by dozens of witnesses just before the explosion of TWA Flight 800 may have been flaming jet fuel - not a missile - CBS News reported Friday.
Citing unnamed sources close to the investigation, CBS said officials now have ruled out a missile as the cause of the disaster.
Spokesmen for the agencies involved in investigation, however, said Friday night that none of the three theories as to what caused the crash - a missile, bomb or mechanical failure - has been ruled out.
“It’s as true today as it has been for the last 11 months,” said FBI spokesman Joseph Valiquette. “All three theories are still actively under investigation. Nothing has yet been eliminated.”
National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Peter Goelz said, “We continue to find no physical evidence of a bomb or missile, but as of today, nothing has been ruled in or ruled out.
“Traditionally, the NTSB does not put undue weight on eyewitness accounts,” he added.
All 230 people aboard the Paris-bound 747 were killed in the July 17 crash off Long Island.
CBS said investigators believe that after an initial explosion in the center fuel tank that sent the jet’s front section tumbling to the sea, the rest of the plane continued to climb, trailing a stream of flaming fuel from a ruptured fuel tank on the right wing.
Some 150 people, 34 of them regarded by the FBI as “credible,” have reported seeing a light streak rising toward the plane before it exploded.
However, none of those witnesses was any closer to the plane than 10 miles away, and the CBS report said investigators consider it possible that at that distance the flaming jet fuel looked like an ascending streak of light, or a missile.