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Tuesday, 13 November, 2001, 01:46 GMT
Passenger jet crashes in New York
Rockaway Beach fires
Fierce fires are raging in areas of Rockaway Beach
Emergency workers in New York have so far pulled 225 bodies from the wreckage of an American Airlines passenger jet which crashed near the city's John F Kennedy airport, killing all 260 people on board.


The New York people have suffered mightily and they are suffering again. There is no doubt in my mind that they are a strong and courageous people

US President George Bush
Flight 587 was bound for the Dominican Republic when it lost an engine and nosedived into the Rockaway Beach residential area of the borough of Queens four minutes after taking off from JFK at 0913 local time (1413 GMT).

New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said there were no survivors among the 251 passengers and nine crew.

He revised an earlier figure of 246 passengers to take account of five infants being carried in the laps of their parents.

Between six and eight people who were residents of the Rockaway Beach area have been reported missing.

President Bush offered condolences to the families of victims.

"The New York people have suffered mightily and they are suffering again," he said.

"There is no doubt in my mind that they are a strong and courageous people."

The FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration have stressed that there is no indication the crash was anything other than an accident.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said nothing had been ruled out, but added that no terrorist threat had been received.

"There were no unusual communications with the cockpit beforehand," he told reporters.

Click here for a map of the crash site

He denied the FBI was investigating reports of an explosion on board the aircraft, as had earlier been suggested.

State of alert

This is the first major airline crash in the United States since four passenger flights were crashed in suicide hijackings on 11 September, destroying both towers of the World Trade Center in New York and smashing into the Pentagon in Washington.



Flight 587 disaster
  • Emergency hotline: 1-800-245-0999
  • Departed: JFK Airport 0913 EST (1413 GMT)
  • Destination: Dominican Republic
  • Airbus A-300
  • 251 passengers
  • Nine crew

  • All three airports serving New York - JFK, Newark and La Guardia - were closed for a number of hours and international flights diverted to other cities.

    Tunnels and bridges were also closed to all but emergency vehicles for several hours as a precaution, and fighter jets flew over the scene in Queens.

    A second aviation incident was later reported in Washington, in which a US Airways flight from Pittsburgh to Reagan National Airport was forced to make an emergency landing at Dulles, another city airport.

    An FBI spokesman said a passenger, a 33-year-old man from Washington, was subdued by sky marshals on board the plane after he refused to sit down and began walking towards the cockpit.

    Dumping fuel

    Suspicions that the New York crash was the result of an accident have been bolstered by reports that the pilot released fuel in the sea shortly before his plane came down.

    "The pilot did dump fuel over Jamaica Bay which is in line with the pilot believing there was some mechanical problem on board," New York Governor George Pataki told a news conference.


    I looked out the window - I saw a piece of metal falling from the sky

    Witness Phyllis Paul

    The flight data recorder has been recovered and television reports said the cockpit voice data recorder had also been found.

    This could provide vital details about events on the plane before it crashed.

    A dozen Rockaway homes were consumed by flames following the crash. One piece of debris set ablaze part of a petrol station.

    Mayor Giuliani praised the New York fire department for the speed in which the blaze was brought under control, and said it was fortunate that the crash site was relatively confined.

    "But for a very quick response today, the tragedy would have been much greater," he said.

    "It could have been far worse, there are any number of ways that this could have been far worse. It was amazing how the plane just landed in one small defined area."

    About 150 of the passengers on the plane were Dominican citizens. The country's president has expressed his deep sorrow.

    In Santo Domingo's airport, distraught relatives of passengers broke down upon hearing the news.

    Fire and flames

    An eyewitness in Rockaway saw an engine "come off" and hit the ground, while the plane came down several blocks away.

    One of the plane's engines
    The engine landed four blocks away from the plane
    Local residents joined fire teams with garden hoses and fire extinguishers. A huge pall of black smoke above the area was visible from miles away.

    "We are being tested one more time and we will pass this test," Mayor Giuliani said.

    The mayor had been to a number of funerals in the area recently because it had lost so many people in the attacks of 11 September.

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     WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    The BBC's James Robbins in New York
    "This city was plunged once again into terrible uncertainty"
    The BBC's Simon Montague
    reports on the victims of the crash and those they left behind
    Robert Hewson, Jane's Aviation
    "There seems to be a fairly clear-cut case of structural failure"
    Don Carty, Chairman, American Airlines
    "Our thoughts and our prayers are with the families of our passengers and employees"

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