- NEW YORK (CNN) --
The crash of an American Airlines jet south of New York's John F. Kennedy
airport started fires "all over the Rockaway peninsula," witnesses
Smoke poured from the crash site, near the beaches of New York's borough
of Queens. The crash site was about five miles from the airport, where
the jet had just taken off for the Dominican Republic's capital Santo Domingo.
The Airbus A300 carried 246 passengers and a crew of nine, federal authorities
said. There was no immediate news of survivors.
Witnesses said they saw an explosion on the right side of the plane before
the crash. Phyllis Paul, who lives near the crash site, said a "big,
silvery piece of metal" fell behind her house before the plane went
"I was sitting having brekafast and I heard the engines very loud,"
she said. "They were loud and low, and because of what happened September
11, it gave me a chill ... I looked out o the window to see if I could
see where it was, and then I saw a big silvery piece of metal falling from
the sky behind my house."
Paul, who was eating breakfast when she heard the plane, got her 10-year-old
son and got out of the house.
"I didn't hear an explosion at first when I saw the metal fall. I
heard an explosion about a minute and a half later," she said.
About 20 blocks away, David Saliro and his brother were in a car on a bridge
on-ramp when the crash occurred. Saliro said the plane came down "at
a flat trajectory, straight down flat."
"We were both shaking and didn't know what to do," he said.
Volunteer firefighters said a burning aircraft engine dropped into the
back yard of a house, setting the house ablaze. No one was home at the
time, one firefighter told CNN.
Since the September 11 terrorist attacks, U.S. warplanes have patrolled
the airspace around New York. Susan Locke, who lives about five blocks
away, said she thought the noise at first was a fighter jet.
"I looked out the window and saw a plane nosedive, straight down,"
Another woman described the neighborhood around the crash site as a scene
of "complete and utter terror. Everybody is so distraught and upset
and in shock," she said.
When the plane approached, "I thought it was like the Concorde and
it was flying too low," she said. "Then it hit. It was like a