The plane was 10 miles from the shore and falling at 600 mph when it hit the water. The nose landing gear doors blew inward and were torn off. 213 people lost their lives. Something had punctured the right upper wing area approximately eight meters inboard of the wing tip, severing the wing skin and the centre fuel tank vent and igniting the vapors within. This created a fuel vapor fireball that raced down the centre fuel tank vent and into the centre wing tank, causing it to explode.
From inside their homes on the shore, people claimed to have felt several sonic booms followed by a sound very much like thunder. Those who were standing outside at the time of the accident claimed to have seen an object in the sky. This object had a white tail.
The flight data recorder indicated a pressure increase outside of the aircraft before it exploded. The time was 8:31 PM. Although the sun had set 11 minutes earlier, it was still daylight at 13,772 feet, which was the plane’s altitude when the object struck. The passengers onboard would have seen the white tail. They would have seen the object moving away from the aircraft rather than towards it. This was due to the object’s increasing apparent altitude over the horizon.
When the object first entered the earth’s atmosphere, at a velocity of 25,000 mph, it had a calculated diameter of four feet. It then broke apart into several pieces and it was one of these resultant pieces, roughly the size of a football, which created the fatal puncture in the upper skin in the outboard main tank vent stringer. The fracture surfaces, which had been stained yellow-orange, had then curled into the surge tank.
Then the centre wing tank exploded. The aircraft descended. The fuselage nose section hit the water and there were no survivors.
It must have been beautiful.