2001-12-29 / Front Page

‘I Served For 23 Years, And I Do Not Exaggerate!’ Former NYPD Sergeant’s Account of Flight 587 Crash

By Gary G. Toms

‘I Served For 23 Years,
And I Do Not Exaggerate!’
Former NYPD Sergeant’s
Account of Flight 587 Crash
By Gary G. Toms

As indicated in previous issues, there have been a number of eyewitnesses who have come forward to give their account of what happened prior to the crash of Flight 587, which occurred on November 12 in the Belle Harbor area.

JoAnn V. Catanese, a retired sergeant of 23 years with the New York City Police Department, is yet another eyewitness who vehemently debunks the theories and reports that were put out by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.).

"I know what I saw, and I am in total agreement with the other eyewitnesses. From my vantage point, which was quite good, there was an explosion on that plane, " said Catanese.

On November 21, the former police NYPD representative was contacted by Luke Schiada, Air Safety Investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, after Catanese made numerous attempts to contact them, and the F.B.I., shortly after the crash.

A portion of the letter sent by the Schiada reads as follows:

"The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating an accident that occurred on November 12, 2001, involving American Airlines flight 587, that crashed in Belle Harbor, New York. You have been identified as an eyewitness or a potential eyewitness."

The letter then instructed Catanese to provide a written statement of her account and forward it.

In a her written statement, dated December 3, Catanese claimed the following:

"At approximately 9:15 a.m., I was on the boardwalk at Beach 60 Street walking southwest toward my building, which is located near 88 Street and Shore Front Parkway. Prior to observing the aircraft in question, I heard a very loud roar from an airplane engine. I assumed it was the Concorde and looked up to see where it was. However, I did not see any aircraft. I proceeded to walk southwest on the boardwalk. From my location, I had a clear and unobstructed view of the sky, the water and the land, and I observed an airplane that was flying south towards the ocean, approximately one minute after hearing said airplane engine roar. The left side of the plane, from the left wing to the tail, exploded, which caused the aircraft to bank left and spiral down to the earth. There were flames coming from the aircraft after the explosion. I vaguely remember seeing something falling away from the aircraft towards the north, but I cannot describe what it was. I did not actually see the aircraft hit the ground. However, I anticipated hearing the impact of the plane crashing into the ground and, in fact, did hear a distant explosion of some kind and assumed it was the airplane hitting the ground. I subsequently observed a huge fireball and black smoke rise up into the sky, presumably where the plane went down. The entire incident lasted approximately 10 to 15 seconds. When the explosion occurred, it seemed like the airplane stood still for a moment before it banked to the left and plummeted to the ground."

The retired sergeant goes on to note that the experience was one of the most terrifying incidents she has ever witnessed and hopes that similar eyewitnesses reports will be taken seriously.

"I hope that I will never witness anything that horrible again for the rest of my life. It is my sincere wish that with all of the eyewitness accounts and your expertise, we will someday know the truth about what happened. I would also like to add that I am a retired New York City Police Officer. I served for 23 years, and I do not exaggerate!"

While Catanese stands strongly behind her claims, she notes that anything could have happened to bring down Flight 587.

"I’m no expert in airline disasters or aviation, and the problem could have been mechanical, but I know what I saw. I just don’t understand why the NTSB and F.B.I. are not taking my claim, or the claims of other credible witnesses, more seriously. No matter what, we have the right to be heard. Why they are so reluctant is beyond me."

Catanese’s statement comes hot on the heels of similar claims made by Tom Lynch, a retired firefighter, and Jim Conrad, a retired police lieutenant. Both indicated to various media sources that explosions occurred prior to the crash. They have attempted to contact the NTSB, F.B.I., Senators Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton, and Congressman Anthony Weiner as well, but their attempts were unsuccessful.

The Wave had contacted each of the political figures for commentary, but they were either unavailable for comment or preferred to speak with the eyewitnesses before issuing any statements.

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