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Relatives Marking 17th Anniversary Of TWA Flight 800 Crash On L.I.

SMITH POINT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Families and friends of the 230 people killed in the TWA Flight 800 tragedy are marking the 17th anniversary of the crash at a memorial service Wednesday on Long Island.

The service is taking place at Smith Point County Park at the same time as a new documentary questioning federal investigators' findings about the crash is set to air.

Relatives Marking 17th Anniversary Of TWA Flight 800 Crash On L.I.

On July 17, 1996, the Paris-bound Boeing 747 crashed off Long Island, killing all 230 people on board.

The National Transportation Safety Board concluded that Flight 800 was destroyed by a center fuel tank explosion, probably caused by a spark from a short-circuit in the wiring.

The re-assembled shell of TWA flight #80
FILE - The re-assembled shell of TWA flight 800 sits inside a hangar at the NTSB training facility (credit: PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

But in the documentary that airs Wednesday on the EPIX television channel, six retired NTSB investigators say they have new evidence that rebut the official cause.

The retired investigators claim that original findings on the cause of the crash were "falsified" and that the new evidence points to the often-discounted theory that a missile strike may have downed the jumbo jet.

Relatives Marking 17th Anniversary Of TWA Flight 800 Crash On L.I.

Many family members are upset that the documentary is airing on the same night as the anniversary.

"Why are they going to preview it -- it's July 17 at 8 at night when we're here trying to remember those who were lost in the flight," said Jim Hurd, whose son was killed in the crash.

Some victims' relatives are hoping that proceeds from the documentary will go towards an endowment for the TWA Flight 800 memorial at Smith Point County Park. They are trying to raise $3 million for the annual care of the site.

TWA Flight 800 Memorial
Family members and staff at the TWA Flight 800 Memorial at Smith Point County Park. From left to right: John Seaman, Jim Hurd, Chris Carlisle, Stacie Bromberg and Frank Lombardi. (credit: Mona Rivera/1010 WINS)

"The most important issue for the families is the care and perpetual security for the memorial," said John Seaman, who lost his niece in the crash. "We poured our lives into this memorial, we spent years building it."

Seaman also called the timing of the documentary "incredibly insensitive."

Earlier this month, the NTSB said they stand by their conclusion that the explosion was caused by overheated fuel tank vapors, and not a bomb or missile.

To donate to the endowment fund for memorial, send checks to:

Families of TWA Flight 800
PO Box 1061
Clifton Park, NY 12065

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(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 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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