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15 Years Later, Pain Of TWA Flight 800 Crash Still Fresh

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FILE -- TWA Flight 800 memorial site (credit: Mike Xirinachs/WCBS 880)

FILE — TWA Flight 800 memorial site (credit: Mike Xirinachs/WCBS 880)

SMITHPOINT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) – Sunday marked 15 years since the crash of TWA Flight 800, and families of the victims gathered together Sunday to remember their loved ones.

The Paris-bound 747 exploded off Long Island shortly after taking off from John F. Kennedy International Airport. All 230 people on board were killed.

Relatives of the victims put white carnations in the sand Sunday after the 8:31 p.m. moment that the plane’s center fuel tank exploded.

LISTEN: WCBS 880’s Mike Xirinachs reports

Those who attended the annual service included investigators from the FBI, Navy and local law enforcement, fire rescue personnel and residents who went into the fiery sea that night in a search for survivors.

Initial speculation blamed the crash on terrorists, but investigators eventually found the crash was most likely caused by an electrical spark that set-off fumes in an empty fuel tank.

Fifteen years later, the pain and the emotion of that tragic evening is still strong for the victims’ families and the community.

“I think it will always be an emotional thing like 9/11,” said Patricia, who didn’t give her last name.

1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon has more on the memorial service.

Patricia remembers the shock of hearing the news that 230 people died in the crash. She’s a local resident who visits the memorial site regularly.

She says it’s a night she says she’ll never forget.

“I feel just such a loss,” she said. “There were so many people on that plane.”

Smithpoint was one of the closest points on land to the disaster. The FBI investigated for 16 months to rule out a bomb or missile. Aviation investigators blamed an electrical spark setting off vapors in an empty fuel tank.

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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