Flight 800: And Now To The Courthouse

Lawsuits are filed as probers zero in on mechanical failure

In the annals of aviation safety, this is going to go down as one lousy year. Federal investigators are getting ever closer to concluding that a mechanical defect, not a terrorist attack, may have caused the fatal explosion of TWA Flight 800 off the coast of Long Island on July 17, sources close to the investigation say. The cause may never be determined for certain, of course. But given the way the investigation is heading, the industry is bracing for a flood of lawsuits claiming negligence--not just against manufacturer Boeing Co., but against Trans World Airlines Inc. and possibly airline-parts manufacturers as well.

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