Mourners mark 19 years since TWA Flight 800 explosion

As mourners gathered at Smith Point Park in Mastic Beach Friday to mark the 19th anniversary of the explosion of TWA Flight 800, concern grew about how the park's memorial will be funded in the future.

The Paris-bound Boeing 747 left John F. Kennedy International Airport on July 17, 1996. The plane broke apart mid-air, scattering debris across a 4-mile swath of sea off East Moriches.

All 230 people on board were killed, including 14 Long Islanders.

During Friday's anniversary vigil, Jim Hurd ran his hands across his son's name, which is etched in the memorial's granite. Jamie Hurd, the elder Hurd's son, had been heading to Paris to meet his girlfriend.

"They were gonna drive around France, take a 10-day vacation, and he never made it," said Hurd.

For many, the memorial is where they go to reflect on the tragedy and mourn loved ones who were killed in the explosion.

About $50,000 is budgeted this year to maintain the memorial, according to Suffolk County Leg. Kate Browning (3rd District), but she said obtaining funding has been a "continual fight." The county was more committed in prior years to maintaining the memorial, according to Browning.

In response, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said, "Suffolk County has and will continue to work with the families of Flight 800 victims to support the memorial."

A lengthy investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that the 747 blew up because of "an accidental spark igniting fuel vapors in the center fuel tank."

Skeptics believe some type of projectile hit the plane, but the NTSB says it isn't reopening the investigation.

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