Local man seeks truth in Flight 800 crash

New information earlier this week pointing to a cover-up in the crash of TWA Flight 800 doesn’t come as a surprise to at least one local man whose daughter was killed in the 1996 tragedy.

Donald Nibert, a retired Penn College forestry professor, said from the beginning all he has wanted is the truth from investigators.

“I’ve always felt this was friendly fire from day one,” he said.

The crash off Long Island claimed the life of his daughter, Cheryl, along with 15 other Montoursville Area High School students and their five adult chaperones.

A film to be released next month makes the claim that the official government report on the crash was an elaborate fabrication. Six experts from the National Transportation Safety Board investigation team who originally concluded the crash was an accident now say they were silenced by superiors.

Seventeen years have gone by since the crash, but Nibert hasn’t forgotten.

Early on, he was dogged in his pursuit of the truth.

He queried NTSB officials.

Eventually, he managed to secure a copy of the flight-data recorder from the plane.

One expert concluded that 2 seconds of the recording were deleted.

And Glen Schulze, of Littleton, Colo., a flight data recorder expert maintains to this day that the device was, in his works, “doctored” with 4 seconds of the recording missing.

“What I believe at this point is that it (plane) was not an internal explosion. It was external,” Schulze told the Sun-Gazette Thursday. “That’s what most of witnesses saw.”

Such developments have only confirmed Nibert’s suspicions.

About a year after the crash, Nibert recalled receiving an anonymous call from a woman who claimed that her relative was responsible for shooting down the plane from a submarine.

He can’t say what she told him is true. Then again, he can’t be sure.

Witnesses he’s talked to have seemed to confirm his conclusions: that friendly fire brought down the plane.

The final NTSB report claimed faulty wiring in a central fuel tank caused a blast that destroyed the fuselage.

Nibert doesn’t buy it.

What he really wants, he said, is for the truth to come out and for those engaged in what he believes has been a lie to be prosecuted.

“I want the truth. That is what I’ve always wanted,” he said. “They have covered up things for 17 years.”

Schulze, for his part, said he stands by his original statements that NSTB officials have been anything but forthcoming about their investigation.

He said he never has tried to figure out what the motives may have been behind those responsible for the crash itself.

Nibert has been the lone voice among the relatives of Montoursville victims in expressing his anger at the government.

“I have to say I felt ostracized for my thoughts,” he said. “Parents don’t want to consider this possibility, which is understandable.”

The tragedy, he said, always will be with him.

The filmmakers of “TWA Flight 800” are asking for the NTSB to re-open the investigation.

Nibert, for his part, said he’s not holding out a lot of hope that it will happen.

And the memory of his daughter – he’s managed to keep alive.

“It’s difficult walking into her room, which we never changed,” he said.