NEW YORK (AP) _ An American Airlines jetliner with 255 people on board on its way to the Dominican Republic crashed moments after takeoff Monday in a residential neighborhood five miles (eight kilometers) from Kennedy Airport, authorities said. There was no immediate word on deaths or injuries.
The city was put on high alert, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said. Fighter jets were seen flying over the area.
Bill Schumann of the Federal Aviation Administration said there was no immediate indication of what caused the crash, which came two months after terrorists in two hijacked airliners brought down the World Trade Center.
All metropolitan area airports _ Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark, New Jersey _ were closed after the crash, which took place in the Rockaway section of Queens. All bridges and tunnels into the city were closed except to emergency vehicles. The United Nations was partially locked down.
In Washington, President George W. Bush met with advisers, seeking details of the crash.
Flight 587, an Airbus A300 that can hold 275 people, went down shortly after 9 a.m. (1400 GMT) in the waterfront neighborhood 15 miles (24 kilometers) from Manhattan, setting buildings on fire. A plume of thick, black smoke could be seen miles away.
The FAA said 255 people were aboard, 246 passengers and nine crew.
In Washington, a senior administration official said that no threats against airplanes had been received and that the pilot of Flight 587 reported no trouble before the crash.
A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said intelligence agencies, the FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration were reviewing all recent intelligence for any signs that terrorism was involved, but an hour after the crash there was no evidence pointing to an attack.
They are comparing information to see if it provides any insight into what transpired. At this point, there's no indication of a terrorist attack, but it certainly can't be ruled out in the current environment,'' the official said. At the Pentagon two defense officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said no additional fighters had been dispatched to the New York area and that the entire matter was being handled by the FAA as a domestic disaster with no apparent military implications. The National Transportation Safety Board sent a team to investigate. Giuliani canceled his morning events and headed to the scene, where he said:People should remain calm. We’re just being tested one more time and we’re going pass this test too.’’
Now we should focus all our efforts on finding survivors,'' Giuliani said. Asked what he thought when he heard about the crash, he said:Oh my God,’ that’s the first thing what went into my mind, ‘Oh my God,’ and I just passed a church in which I had been to, I think, 10 funerals. Rockaway was particularly hard hit in proportion to the people we lost.’’
Triage centers were set up a high school and an elementary school, both of which were closed for the Veterans Day holiday.
Planes were being diverted to other airports, and Delta Air Lines spokeswoman Peggy Estes said the airline was working to account for all its planes.
One witness reported debris falling from sky and told the Fox News Channel four homes were on fire.
All of the sudden, I see an engine fall off, and it went to the side, and in 10, 15 seconds it went down,'' witness Kevin O'Rourke told WABC-TV.An engine fell off.’’
Another witness, John Maroney, 47, said the engine plummeted onto a Texaco station near his house, and pieces of plane were a couple of blocks away.
That's probably what shook up up from our beds. The whole house jumped,'' he said.We were all out there with fire extinguishers and hoses, but we couldn’t do much.’’
Witness Phyllis Paul said she heard the plane’s engine.
It was very, very loud. Because of what happened Sept. 11, it gave me a chill,'' she told CNN.It was getting louder and louder and I looked out the window. I saw a piece of metal falling from the sky.’’
The World Trade Center was destroyed by two Boeing 767s hijacked out of Boston’s Logan Airport. One of the planes was operated by American, the other by United.
Airbus said American Airlines has a fleet of 35 A300s.reg