2002-01-12 / Front Page

Up In The Air!

By Howard Schwach

Up In The Air!












The corner of Beach 131 Street and Newport Avenue, in the area where Flight 587 killed five local residents and destroyed a number of homes. The area is still fenced off from the rest of the Belle Harbor neighborhood, but sightseer's, many from Washington Heights and even from the Dominican Republic, continue to visit the site where their loved ones died on November 12, bringing flowers and other mementoes. The corner of Beach 131 Street and Newport Avenue, in the area where Flight 587 killed five local residents and destroyed a number of homes. The area is still fenced off from the rest of the Belle Harbor neighborhood, but sightseer's, many from Washington Heights and even from the Dominican Republic, continue to visit the site where their loved ones died on November 12, bringing flowers and other mementoes.

By Howard Schwach

The crash of American Airline's Flight 587 continues to reverberate in Rockaway, nearly two months after the Airbus A300-600 augured into Newport Avenue and Beach 131 Street.

The crash of American Airline's Flight 587 continues to reverberate in Rockaway, nearly two months after the Airbus A300-600 augured into Newport Avenue and Beach 131 Street.

The crash of American Airline's Flight 587 continues to reverberate in Rockaway, nearly two months after the Airbus A300-600 augured into Newport Avenue and Beach 131 Street.

While the investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) continues, there are many who believe that both the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and NTSB are ignoring the comments of both experts and locals who say that the crash might have come as a result of a terrorist attack.

"The Safety Board has been in contact with the Federal Bureau of Investigation since the first day of this investigation," the NTSB said in a recent crash update. "To date, nothing has been found to indicate that the crash of flight 587 was not an accidental event."

Despite the NTSB's assertion that the crash appears to be an accident, six eye-witnesses to the aircraft's passage over the peninsula believe that they saw it explode prior to the tail shearing off. They have accused crash investigators of ignoring their eyewitness accounts and of ruling out a terrorist attack before all the facts are in.

The majority of those eyewitnesses are Rockaway residents, some of whom have already spoken to The Wave about their belief that the plane exploded prior to coming apart.

Tom Lynch, a retired firefighter, said that he had spoken to more than 15 people who saw the Airbus on fire prior to the crash.

"The NTSB is not publicly acknowledging the many eyewitness accounts of the in-flight fire or explosion, many of who are adamant that the fire occurred before any tail or engine breakups," Lynch told reporters.

Lynch, who has spoken to The Wave on a number of occasions to tell his story, says that he saw "a bright orange ball of flames" on the right side of the plane. Seconds later, Lynch says, he saw a "second, larger eruption of flame consuming the entire right side of the aircraft."

Lynch's report is confirmed by other eyewitnesses, although some say the flames were on the plane's left side rather than on its right.

The failure of the NTSB and the FBI to show interest in these statements may be changing, however. One local resident in the area where the plane came down, who later gave an statement to the NTSB that he heard an explosion over his home before the plane hit, was contacted only this week to provide a more detailed written description of what he had seen and heard.

An NTSB spokesperson told The Wave that more than 200 eyewitness accounts had been recorded and were being considered as part of the investigation.

"Those interview summaries are being examined now," a recent NTSB update report says. "They will be made part of the public record when the Board's public docket on this investigation is opened." The NTSB spokesperson said that the report process often takes up to a year and a half in investigations such as these.

In a related matter, Representative Anthony Weiner will hold a town hall meeting on the issue at PS 114 (Beach 135 Street and Cronston Avenue) on Sunday, January 20, from 3 p.m. until 5 p.m. Representatives from the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) will be on hand to discuss flight paths and other related issues with residents.


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