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Tuesday, 13 November, 2001, 06:49 GMT
New York crash 'an accident'
Part of the plane's fin landed near a parked car
The pilot's nosedive averted a worse disaster
Investigators say preliminary evidence points to mechanical failure rather than terrorism as the cause of Monday's air crash in New York.

Emergency workers in New York have so far recovered 265 bodies from where the American Airlines jet crashed, near the city's John F Kennedy airport. Up to nine people were still missing on the ground.

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).

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) joined the FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in stressing that there was no indication that the crash was anything other than an accident.

"Everything we have learned... says we are proceeding appropriately, considering this an accident," Marion Blakey, the head of the National Transportation Safety Board, told a news conference.

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

  • Officials said the cockpit voice recordings, which yielded good quality data, indicated that the co-pilot had been at the controls. They said this was not unusual.

    The search continued for the companion flight data recorder.

    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.

    President Bush offered condolences to the families of victims.

    Early warnings

    There have been documented malfunctions involving General Electric's CF6 engines - the same model as that of the American Airlines flight - in the past.

    Relatives of the American Airlines flight at Santo Domingo's international airport
    About 150 of the passengers were from the Dominican Republic
    Just last month, the FAA called for tougher inspections of possibly worn parts, saying they constituted an "unsafe condition" that could damage an airplane.

    The FAA set a 60-day period for industry feedback, which was to end on 4 December.

    The NTSB had also warned that failure of these engines during flight could send hot metal fragments tearing through important control systems or fuel lines, and could cause a plane to crash.

    The American Airlines plane had gone through routine maintenance tests overnight on Sunday, and investigators were checking who had access to it during those hours.

    Click here for a map of the crash site

    This was 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.

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

    Witness Phyllis Paul
    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.

    Fuel not dumped

    A spokesman for the plane's manufacturer, Airbus, said that contrary to earlier remarks by New York Governor George Pataki, the pilot could not have dumped fuel before the crash, since the version of the A-300 plane sold to American Airlines lacked that capability.

    Firefighters clearing smouldering pieces of American Airlines Flight 587
    A dozen Rockaway homes were consumed by flames
    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.

    "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 and the national authorities declared three days of mourning.

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

    Return to top

    The BBC's Emma Simpson
    "The crash site is still sealed off"
    The BBC's Jane Standley
    "New Yorkers can scarcely believe disaster has struck again"
    The BBC's Richard Lister
    explains how the findings so far are consistent with mechanical malfunction

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