NEW YORK (CNN) -- An American Airlines jet with 255 people on board crashed Monday in a residential neighborhood after taking off from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.

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NEW YORK (CNN) -- An American Airlines jet with 255 people on board crashed Monday in a residential neighborhood after taking off from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.

American Airlines Flight 587 went down at 9:17 a.m. EST in the Rockway section of the New York City borough of Queens about five miles from Kennedy airport.

A senior Bush administration official told CNN initial indications are that there was an explosion aboard the plane, an Airbus A300, but that the source of the explosion is unknown.

New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said there were two crash sites -- one where the plane landed and another where an engine landed. Both were about six blocks from a school building. The school was closed for the Veterans Day holiday.

The plane was scheduled to leave at 8:40 a.m. EST, but takeoff was delayed until 9:14 a.m.

The plane was en route from New York to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. American Airlines said the plane was carrying 246 passengers and nine crew members.

An eyewitness told CNN, "I was in my kitchen ... and I saw the plane hit the house behind my house. It was so low, I was ducking almost, then huge fireballs, and I jumped out of the ... window of my house.

"I ran right across the street ... it's unbelievable," she said, overcome by emotion. "It sounded like two planes. It was flying too low, and then it hit. It was like a bomb exploded."

At least four houses were on fire, and a huge plume of smoke could be seen rising from the sites. The New York Fire Department dispatched 44 firetrucks and 200 firefighters to the scene. Giuliani declared a Level One emergency, mobilizing all available police, fire and emergency personnel.

Giuliani said his first response to the crash was, "Oh my God."

GALLERY
Scenes from Monday's New York airplane crash


FACT BOX

American Airlines Flight 587, an Airbus A300 -- 246 passengers, nine crew members

En route from New York to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Scheduled for 8:40 a.m. EST departure

Plane took off at 9:14 a.m. EST

The plane went down at 9:17 a.m. EST

New York declares Level One alert; 44 firetrucks, 200 firefighters dispatched to scene

Three New York-area airports initially shut down, city tunnels and bridges closed



Latest developments
• All three New York-area airports -- Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark -- closed after the crash, but Kennedy was reopened to arriving flights a short time later.

• Both national and international air traffic was affected. In Los Angeles, California, airport officials said flights to the three New York-area airports were grounded. British Airways said it had two flights en route to New York at the time of the crash. A spokesman said those planes would be diverted. A Lufthansa flight to New York was grounded.

• All of New York's bridges and tunnels were closed after the crash, but they were later reopened to outbound traffic.

• CNN confirmed President Bush postponed a scheduled meeting with Russian and American reporters so he could meet with advisers to discuss the crash. "The president is on top of it. They're alert; they're watching everything else all over the country," Giuliani said. "So I think people should remain absolutely calm. This can be handled, and we're just being tested one more time. We're going to pass this test, too."

• Asked if terrorism was suspected, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Bill Schumann said, "All options are open at this time. We have very limited information."

• The Pentagon said surveillance flights were going on in the area at the time of the crash and nothing unusual had been spotted.

• The United Nations went into a partial lockdown after the crash. No cars or pedestrians were allowed to enter the United Nations, which is holding a high-level General Assembly debate. The U.N. Security Council's president issued a statement expressing shock at the news of the crash and offering "heartfelt sympathies to the people of the United States and families of those who lost their lives." (Full story)

• The Empire State Building was evacuated as a security precaution.

• About 200 family members of passengers on the plane were waiting at the Las Americas International Airport in Santo Domingo, said Dominican customs official Evelyn Aredondo. "People are watching TV, waiting to hear something," she said. "They are very upset."

• American Airlines set up a telephone number for family members to call for information. The number is 1-800-245-0999.
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2001-11-12 -05:00

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