Eyewitness - 'It Was Like
a Bomb Exploded'

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 said.

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 down.

"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," she said.

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 bomb exploded."


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