A trip to the corner deli or the supermarket will never be the same in the Rockaway section of Queens, New York.
At 9:15 this morning, American Airlines Flight 587, enroute to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, crashed shortly after take off from JFK Airport. The plane, an Airbus A-300, can hold as many as 275 passengers. The Port Authority of New York reports the number of passengers on Flight 587 at 245 and the number of crew members at nine.
An eye witness said she heard "a loud noise, like a figher jet or a plane in trouble" at around 9:15 a.m. and looked out her window. "I saw the plane nosedive and hit the ground. I was hysterical, yelling. Then there was black smoke everywhere," said Susan Locke, who lives a few blocks from the crash site.
Authorities confirm there are two separate crash sites, about four blocks apart. Several eye witnesses said they saw an engine - which is about the size of a small van - fall in flames from the plane and hit a boat in the driveway of a home, which then caught fire. Within seconds, the plane itself crashed.
The plane crash occurred near a busy corner that includes small businesses such as a deli and supermarket, several commercial buildings, and a number of residences and apartment buildings. Early reports say that some 10 buildings have been impacted by the crash. Two schools, P.S.114 and parochial school St. Francis, are within blocks of the crash site, but were closed today because of the Veteran''s Day holiday.
Approximately 200 firefighters rushed to the scene, quickly bringing the fire caused by the fallen engine under control. The area where the crash occurred was devastated by the World Trade Center attack. Dozens of firefighters who died on Sept. 11 lived in that neighborhood.
Some 15 residents and firefighters have been brought to local hospitals and are being treated, mostly for smoke inhalation.
As soon as the news of the crash reached the Federal Aviation Administration, it closed New York airspace as a precaution and shut down the JFK, LaGuardia and Newark airports. All bridges and tunnels in New York city were closed as well, although they re-opened to outbound traffic at 11 a.m..
The city of New York is on high alert, and jet fighters can be clearly heard scrambling over the city.The United Nations immediately locked down, with no one able to enter or leave the complex. Secretary of State Colin Powell and the foreign ministers from several countries, including six that neighbor Afghanistan, are meeting there today. The smoke from the crash can be seen from the UN, which is 17 or 18 miles away.
Bush Administration officials say the FBI believes there was an explosion on board the plane and they are investigating. U.S. military sources say there is no indication that this was an act of terrorism.
There is a number for concerned family members to call. That number is 1-800-245-0999.
by Sandy Smith