2002-01-19 / Front Page

Eyewitness Reports Reviewed

NTSB To Look At Local Reports of Smoke and Fire on Flight 587
By Howard Schwach

By Howard Schwach












Flight 587, an American Airlines Airbus A300, similar to the one pictured here, crashed in Belle Harbor on November 12, 2001. Flight 587, an American Airlines Airbus A300, similar to the one pictured here, crashed in Belle Harbor on November 12, 2001.

In what many local residents are seeing as a change in investigative focus, a spokesperson for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has announced that the agency is going to take a closer look at the statements of those who said that they saw fire and smoke coming from flight 587 prior to its crash into Beach 131 Street and Newport Avenue.

"Although at this time no physical evidence of an in-flight explosion or fire has been discovered, the board is taking into full consideration the observations of all of the witnesses," the spokesperson said.

Many see this as a change from the board's previous position and many local residents who saw the plane as it flew over the peninsula on November 12 were angered that both the NTSB and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) seemed to be ignoring those who claimed to have seen fire, smoke and an explosion on the aircraft's fuselage.

Just a week ago the NTSB announced, "nothing has been found to indicate that the crash of flight 587 was not an accidental event."

At the same time, however, several local residents who either saw the plane that morning or who live nearby the crash site reported to The Wave that they had received letters from the NTSB asking for restatements of their eyewitness testimony.

It now seems that eyewitness testimony may begin to play a larger part in the investigation, At the same time, NTSB investigators are looking through airline junkyards for an old Airbus A300 vertical stabilizer to compare with the one that was pulled from Jamaica Bay the day after the crash.

They want to examine the plastic and carbon composite material of the stabilizer and see how it differs from the one that came off flight 587.

"The board expects to find one in a salvage yard because we need one in a used state. You just can't build a new one for comparison," a spokesperson for the NTSB said.

The organization said that there was evidence that the material in the tail section of flight 587 was "splitting apart," and now they want to find out if it happened prior to the crash or as part of the impact.

"Investigators have not ruled out mechanical malfunction or structural defect as causing or contributing to the crash," the spokesperson added.

The final report into the Belle Harbor crash, which killed 260 people on the aircraft and five locals on the ground, is not expected until late this year or early in 2003.


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