November 12, 2001, 10:34 AM EST
An American Airlines jetliner en route from New York to Santo Domingo crashed moments after takeoff Monday morning into a Rockaways neighborhood five miles from Kennedy Airport, authorities said.
The plane, an Airbus A300, had a capacity of 275 people. There was no definitive report of the number of casualties, either on the plane or on the ground, where several buildings were reported to be ablaze.
American Flight 587, a wide-bodied, twin-engine plane, crashed two minutes after it took off at 9:15 a.m. Unconfirmed reports said the plane carried 246 passengers and nine crew members.
Thick, black smoke could be seen miles away from the crash in the Rockaways. City officials said 200 firefighters and 44 fire trucks have responded to the crash. They are coping with two crash sites, one where one of the engines fell and another where the plane fell.
Bill Schumann of the Federal Aviation Administration said there was no immediate indication of what caused the crash.
There was no immediate indication that terrorism was to blame, but the Office of Emergency Management said all bridges and tunnels in the city were closed except to emergency vehicles. However, the Brooklyn Bridge has been reopened to commuters.
All metro area airports were closed following the crash near Beach 129th Street and Newport Avenue. In addition the United Nations, which is playing host to world leaders from 189 member states in town for the General Assembly, was also shut down.
In addition, F-16s at military bases have been put on alert.
Mayor Rudolph Giuliani canceled his morning events and headed to the scene. He said about 12 buildings were on fire in the area, mostly homes.
"I heard a rumble and my house shook, so I thought it was a fighter jet," said Susan Locke, who lives in the neighborhood. "I went to the window and I saw a plane coming down. It just came straight down."
John Maroney, 47, who lives on 129th Street near the site of the crash, said an engine from the plane dropped on a gas station near his house. “The whole house jumped,” he said.
“We were all out there with fire extinguishers and hoses but we couldn’t do much,” he said.
The crash site is a neighborhood of multi-family homes, three or four stories high, said Sanford Bernstein, general manager of a weekly Rockaways paper, The Wave.
Only a block or two from Jamaica Bay, the neighborhood includes a small shopping strip. A Roman Catholic church and elementary school are also nearby, he said.
Schools were closed Monday for the Veterans Day holiday.
Copyright © 2001, Newsday, Inc.