2002-07-20 / Front Page

A Wave Exclusive….

Flight 587 Witnesses Speak Out
At Wave Sponsored Meeting

A Wave Exclusive...
Flight 587 Witnesses Speak Out
At Wave Sponsored Meeting

A number of witnesses to the final moments of American Airlines Flight 587 before it corkscrewed down into Belle Harbor came to the Beach Club last week for a meeting sponsored by The Wave and hosted by Kenny and Steve Good, the proprietors of the restaurant. Many of them told their stories. Some filled out witness statements provided by the newspaper. In this first of a series of articles about the witnesses, here is what some of those eyewitnesses told The Wave:

James P. Conrad

Conrad was on Rockaway Point Boulevard at the Fort Tilden traffic light. His attention was drawn to the plane because it was unusually low and at a location where he normally did not see planes. "I saw a puff of white smoke come from the right side of the plane's body, just behind the right wing. Then, there was a large explosion engulfing the body of the plane from the wing back to the tail. It was then seven or eight seconds before the plane crashed into the ground." Conrad added that "just before the plane passed over the seawall, there were debris pieces of all sizes dropping from the plane and through the smoke."

Rhoda Ross
Cronston Avenue and Beach 125

Ross first was alerted to the plane when her house shook. Pieces of the aircraft "fell all around" her house. While she never saw the plane, she heard the explosion and the plane passing over her home.

Joann Catanese
Beach 60 and the Boardwalk

The ex-NYPD sergeant was at Beach 60 Street and the boardwalk when an explosion drew her attention to the plane. She says that she saw "an area from the left wing to the tail go on fire." She adds that she saw "something fall from the plane and float to the north."

Tom Lynch
Beach 151 Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard

The ex-firefighter was nearby the Neponsit Home when he noticed the plane "lower than usual." As he watched, he saw "an orange-red explosion, about the size of a small car," on the right side of the plane. The plane flew on normally for two or three seconds and then there was a "larger, second burst of flames, like a match on a grill." At that time, he says, "a piece of the plane separates, a piece that I first thought was the wing, but might have been the tail." He continued watching for a few seconds more as it "started a curved dive into the ground."

Barbara Johnston
400 Block of Beach 124

Johnston was on the porch of her home when she was attracted by the noise of a plane low in the sky. She had a view of the left side of the plane and its tail. The plane was "level, but losing altitude," she says. "The cockpit of the plane was hanging off and flames were coming off the front of the plane," she adds.

Neil MacLeod
Broad Channel Subway Station

MacLeod was waiting for the Manhattan train when some teens yelled "Look at that plane." He looked up and the plane was "yawing," moving in a "counter-clockwise motion." "There was fire and smoke coming from under the plane, where the right wing and the fuselage join," he adds. He says that there were "pieces falling off the plane, moving along with it." During the last few seconds prior to the crash, he says that a "long, rectangular piece came off the plane, but it was not in the shape of the tail."

Barbara Morris
Gateway National Park Golf Course

Morris was waiting to swing when she heard a plane with an "engine that was stalling out." She looked up at the plane and saw "an explosion, smoke and fire." She watched as the plane continued on and its engine fell off prior to its crash.

Mary Ellen Murray
Four Hundred Block of Beach 124

Murray was on the second floor of her house when she heard the "loud noise of a plane" flying right overhead. "I only saw flames coming from the wing closest to the bay," she says. She only saw the plane for about 15-30 seconds, because she ran to get her husband and family. She wanted to get everybody out of the house, because she believed that it was "going to crash soon."

Patrick Twohig
100 Block of Beach 114

Twohig, a retired priest, was on the second floor of his home, when he heard "a loud bang, different from the one you hear in a car accident." He looked out the window and saw the plane, which "seemed to drop and the went level again." Twohig says that "right after the bang, I saw smoke and flames towards the rear of the aircraft. I saw lots of aircraft parts fall from the plane, but I don't know what parts of the plane they were from." He watched until the plane crashed and he saw the thick, black smoke.

Maureen Hagner
Beach 124 and Rockaway Beach Boulevard

Hagner was attracted to the plane because she "thought it was the Concorde" passing over. She looked up and saw the plane on fire. She says that she found "what appeared to be the cargo door" of the plane on Beach 125 Street.

Michael D. Benjamin
Flatbush Avenue, nearby Nick's Seafood and Toys â018R Us

Benjamin and his family were driving south on Flatbush Avenue, heading for the Belt Parkway, when his daughter said, "look, that plane is on fire." He looked up and saw a "huge fire" on the plane's fuselage. He continued to watch until the plane crashed into Rockaway.

Angela Fogarty
Eastbound on the Belt Parkway between Knapp Street and Flatbush Avenue

Fogarty first noticed the plane because "it was flying much lower than planes usually flew in that area." She thinks that she saw "something come in contact with the bottom of the plane," but she is not sure. She saw "an explosion followed by a fireball and then by smoke. "The fire lasted only a second or so, but the smoke lasted until the plane crashed," she says. Fogarty adds that she "saw something large fall from the plane," and that she thought it was the wing. "I guess that it was really the tail," she says now.

Jake Kalletta
200 Block of Beach 131 Street

Kalletta says that he never saw the plane, but that it was important to him to report what he heard. "I heard a very loud plane, and I thought that the Concorde was back," he says. "Then there was a loud boom and an even louder roar of engines. A few seconds later, my house shook. I yelled for the kids to get to the basement and then I looked out to the street. There was a wall of black smoke and debris all over the place.

John P. Quill
Beach 110 Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard

Quill was first attracted to the plane by a "muffled pop in the air." He looked up towards the sound and saw the plane wobble a bit. He says that he saw "fire in the fuselage, through the plane's windows and near the rear door." He adds that he watched as "part of the wing and the engines came off prior to it crashing."

Jerome Alks
Beach 133 Street and Newport Avenue

Alks was first attracted to the plane by the noise of the engines, "which did not sound normal." As he watched, he saw "white smoke and flames" on the fuselage. Alks believed that he saw the wing fall off the plane, but now believes that it was the tail instead.

Richard Asaro
400 Block of Beach 135

Asaro was attracted to the plane by an "explosion." He looked up and saw the plane diving, spiraling down. "The entire back half of the plane was billowing black smoke," he says.

George Mowbray
Beach 116 and Rockaway Beach Boulevard

Mowbray was attracted by a plane that was "low and loud." He looked up and saw "parts fly off," as well as "flames on the fuselage near the wings."

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