FLIGHT 587: NEW YORK'S NEW HORROR: OH MY GOD OH MY GOD; Mayor's Agony at Tragedy No2 255 Die on Jet 6 Killed on Ground Fighters Race to Guard Sky over City

The Mirror (London, England), November 13, 2001 | Go to article overview

FLIGHT 587: NEW YORK'S NEW HORROR: OH MY GOD OH MY GOD; Mayor's Agony at Tragedy No2 255 Die on Jet 6 Killed on Ground Fighters Race to Guard Sky over City


Byline: ANDY LINES, US Editor in New York

IT was a cry of anguish for a city that has suffered so much and was now reeling in disbelief and fear at a second ghastly tragedy.

Seconds after learning an American Airlines Airbus had plunged into a New York suburb yesterday killing all 255 aboard, city Mayor Rudolph Giuliani could only gasp in despair: "Oh, my God. Oh, my God."

It was almost two months to the exact day and time since two hijacked airliners - one of them owned by American Airlines - hit the city's World Trade Center killing nearly 5,000 people.

Amid fears of a new terror blitz a huge alert was ordered and F-16 fighter jets were scrambled to guard the skies above the city.

Last night, with six feared dead and 35 hurt on the ground, the White House said it could not rule out a terrorist bomb.

But the National Transportation Safety Board and Secretary of State Colin Powell said first evidence suggested the crash was an accident.

It was believed the pilot, who was apparently in difficulties, had dumped fuel. There was no "unusual" cockpit communication.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who is in New York, said: "Thank the Lord, as we think, it is not another terrorist outrage.

"That is no comfort for the families of victims but I think it's reassuring for New York."

One of the aircraft's black-box recorders was recovered.

Investigators are now reviewing all recent intelligence for any signs of terrorism as well as checking the Airbus passenger list for suspect individuals.

As rescuers toiled again in blazing rubble and New Yorkers wept in the streets, outgoing Mayor Giuliani went to the scene.

He said later: "We were lucky. It could have been far worse.

"The plane came down in one small area, as opposed to hitting a number of homes. We're being tested again. We'll pass this test as we've passed the others."

President Bush - standing alongside former South African president Nelson Mandela who was visiting the White House - said: "It was heartbreaking to speak to my friend Mayor Giuliani and once again express my sympathies.

"The New York people have suffered mightily. They suffer again. But they are a strong people."

Flight AA587 carrying 246 passengers and nine crew to the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean crashed at 9.17am (2.17pm GMT) three minutes after taking off from the city's JFK airport.

The 13-year-old plane took off more than an hour late due to a "technical fault". Engines of the type used on the jet have had a history of problems, including cracking that can lead to catastrophic failure.

One witness told how the doomed plane had difficulty in gaining height and banked strangely as if it was trying to turn back. There were reports of an explosion before the plane crashed. Other witnesses said they saw an engine fall from the fuselage.

The Airbus hit the ground in the densely populated Rockaway Beach area of Queens in a massive fireball that destroyed at least four houses and damaged 16 more. Flames and thick, black smoke could be seen for miles. One of the jet's two engines was found intact in a parking lot at a petrol station, missing the petrol tanks by just 6ft. …

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