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U.S. investigators will not reopen TWA Flight 800 crash probe

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said on Wednesday it will not reconsider its finding that the 1996 crash of TWA Flight 800 was caused by a fuel tank explosion.

Former NTSB investigator Henry Hughes has said he believes a bomb or a missile caused the Boeing Co 747 to crash into the Atlantic Ocean off New York's Long Island, killing all 230 people on board.

The NTSB concluded in 2000 that the jet broke apart and crashed because of an explosion in the center fuel tank, likely caused by faulty wiring.

"After a thorough review of all the information provided by the petitioners, the NTSB denied the petition in its entirety because the evidence and analysis presented did not show the original findings were incorrect," the agency said.

Hughes had petitioned the agency in June 2013 to reconsider its investigation, saying the initial probe was flawed.

"The witness statements, the physical evidence and other facts clearly show there was an explosion external to the aircraft, not the center fuel tank," Hughes told reporters last July.

He said the NTSB had discounted witness statements, radar data, explosive traces and holes in the fuselage that pointed to an external explosion such as a bomb or missile.

Hughes said he had raised these concerns years ago and subsequently was moved from the aviation to highway investigations before he retired.

The missile theory was one of many initially investigated by the U.S. government after a number of witnesses said they saw a streak of light move toward the plane before it crashed.

But the NTSB concluded that the witness descriptions of the streak of light were consistent with the crippled flight of the airplane after it had exploded at 13,700 feet (4,176 meters).

(Reporting by Eric Beech' Editing by Ros Krasny and Ken Wills)

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