Military pilot supports missile theory

NEW YORK (AP) — A military helicopter pilot who witnessed the explosion of TWA Flight 800 repeatedly told investigators he thought a missile struck the plane, a source said on Tuesday.
The Air National Guard pilot has not been allowed to speak publicly because of an FBI ban on federal employees speaking about the investigation. The pilot, Capt. Chris Baur, is a civilian pilot for U.S. Customs.
Baur’s eyewitness report comes to light as critics of the investigation claim to have evidence suggesting that Flight 800 was shot down by an errant U.S. Navy missile. A Pentagon spokesman said investigators had thoroughly probed the issue, even inventorying the Navy’s missile arsenal.
“Personnel have been interviewed; records have been checked. There is absolutely no evidence to support this theory,” said Kenneth Bacon.
“There was not evidence two months ago; there is not evidence now. A new set of allegations rehashing old theories does not make for new evidence,” he added.
One of the reasons why a missile remains under consideration was the number of eyewitness accounts from people who said they saw something in the sky the night of the crash. Baur’s clear view from the helicopter and his military training would make his account one of the most credible.
Mechanical failure or a bomb also haven’t been ruled out as possible causes of the crash.
Baur spoke with the FBI and investigators from the Joint Terrorism Task Force after the disaster, said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity. Upon returning to the base after searching for survivors, Baur “told officials immediately he thought he saw a missile.”
Baur “saw a track of light and saw a hard explosion, then another explosion,” the source said.
Baur’s account differs from that of another military pilot on the helicopter who reported seeing lights in the sky but said he did not know what the object was.
The FBI seized a videotape early Tuesday from the Florida home of retired United Airlines pilot Richard Russell, who has long supported the theory that a Navy missile brought down the plane. He contends the tape is a copy of FAA radar and that it shows an object speeding toward the jetliner.
The tape is to be reviewed by a federal grand jury, according to a second source, confirming a report published on Tuesday in The Press-Enterprise of Riverside, Calif. A grand jury has been considering possible criminal elements of the crash, but the exact nature of that probe isn’t known.
“They took my property away, but that’s the way they operate. I knew that they would be doing this. It’s a cover-up,” said Russell, who is conducting his own investigation of the crash, said in a telephone interview from his home.
Russell told The Associated Press he wrote the memo that was widely circulated on the Internet as proof of the missile theory. He said he had proof of his claim, but hasn’t produced it.