- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 13, 2001

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) Relatives of passengers aboard American Airlines Flight 587 crowded the airport, weeping and hugging each other after hearing the flight bound for the Caribbean island nation crashed shortly after takeoff yesterday.
"Oh, my God," sobbed Miriam Fajardo after being told that her sister, Norma Lilian Baloi and three nephews were aboard the flight bound for Santo Domingo's Las Americas International Airport. "I hadn't seen them in eight years. Now they're gone."
The jetliner, carrying 260 persons, crashed moments after takeoff in a residential neighborhood five miles from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City.
"I woke up early just to greet them," said Melida Reinoso who had gone to the airport to meet her husband and son. "Why did this happen?"
The flight had been due to arrive at 12:51 p.m. Authorities said there was no immediate indication of what caused the crash, which came two months after hijacked planes brought down the World Trade Center in New York and crashed into the Pentagon.
"Not the child, please not the child," said Germania Brito, who was waiting for her sister, Mariana Flores; her sister's husband, John; and their 2-year-old son, Isaias. "May God help us all."
The Dominican government set up a grief-counseling center at the airport, where medics and four psychologists were speaking to relatives, many of whom fainted after hearing of the crash, said Luis Manuel Mejia, director of airport security in Santo Domingo.
"The president is tracking the situation and expressed his deep sorrow," said Luis Gonzalez Fabra, spokesman for President Hipolito Mejia.
Television stations across the country were broadcasting images of the wreckage in New York.
At the airport, tearful relatives hugged one another and wept.
"He's dead," said Rafael Almonte, crying and talking of his brother, Juan Bautista Almonte. "I can't believe this is happening."
American Airlines officials in the Dominican Republic declined comment, saying they were awaiting orders from headquarters.


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