When the ocean liner Titanic went down in 1912, the location of its sinking was witnessed by hundreds of survivors watching from lifeboats. Still, it took until 1985 for the wreckage to be located.
Small fatigue cracks in the skin of a Boeing 737 were identified as the cause of the catastrophic failure of the fuselage of Aloha Airlines Flight 243 in 1988. The plane was flying at 24,000 feet when suddenly the fuselage tore open and a stewardess, who was not buckled into a seat the way the rest of the crew and 89 passengers were, was sucked out of the plane. The captain quickly arranged for an emergency landing and flew the badly damaged plane and its occupants to safety.
Afterwards, one passenger said she had noticed a crack in the fuselage as she boarded the plane, but did not report it. It may have been that crack that proved to be the structural flaw that led to the fuselage being torn open and the consequent rapid decompression, but the exact sequence of events is still debated.
As historical accident cases reveal, locating an accident scene, retrieving wreckage, and testing hypotheses can be a long and, unfortunately, inconclusive process
Culled from nydailynews.com