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U.S.Read's Flight 587
Part 6: Eyewitness Accounts
October 17, 2004
Brett Hoffstadt and Victor Trombettas
NTSB's Ted Lopatkiewicz to the New
York Times, June 23, 2002:
"I don't think I'm making any news by
saying that eyewitness testimony at a plane crash and probably at many
traumatic events is unreliable."
One of the more troubling aspects of the NTSB's investigation has been
their view that eyewitnesses are generally unreliable and useless ––
even if a large pool of eyewitnesses is providing generally consistent
statements. This view led the NTSB to forego serious
investigation of the American Airlines Flight 587 (AA 587)
eyewitnesses, and most importantly, eliminated any attempt to reconcile
the evidence or probable cause with their statements. The NTSB does not
believe there is a high mathematical probability that what the
witnesses claim to have seen did indeed occur.
We are not proposing that individual statements are completely
reliable in regards to
fine details, but it is the calling of an investigator to comb through
all the statements and gleam the common denominators –– the elements
that are common to all the statements. Such elements are indeed
present in the large pool of AA 587 eyewitness accounts. They are
a vital and unique source of very useful information. By completely
information, the NTSB has compromised their ability to understand the
sequence of events.
The obvious questions are, why does the NTSB bother asking for the
public to come forward with accounts and why do they bother collecting
this information, if it has no value in an accident investigation?
Do varying accounts mean conflicting accounts?
On November 22, 2003, a missile struck a DHL Airbus A300 shortly after
takeoff from the Baghdad International Airport. Video of the
attack and the stricken aircraft were made available on the
Internet. The images of the stricken aircraft can shed light on
how it is possible for witnesses to offer different accounts of the
same event, since even pictures and
can offer differing accounts.
Figure 1 below shows the aircraft after it has been struck and the
outboard section of the port (left) side wing set on fire. The
aircraft is making its descent back to the airport. For some
reason, the fire is not visible in
many frames of the video
, including Figure 1. But the
aircraft was indeed on fire as Figure 2, a frame from the same portion
of video, shows us. Figures 3 and 4 give us an entirely different view
of the same aircraft and provide a much clearer view of the fire and
We learn a few things from the DHL event:
- An aircraft may be on fire and
it is possible for some ground witnesses to not see the fire (Figure 1).
- If an aircraft is on fire, some of the witnesses will see the fire, although they
may not be able to correctly identify the location of the fire (Figure
- Only when ground witnesses have an optimal viewing angle
(Figures 3 and 4 above) can they accurately ascertain the location of
We find Figure 2 fascinating in that it appears, from that viewing
angle, that the fire is coming from the belly of the fuselage. We can
theorize, based on these four images, that we might find the following
variance amongst witnesses who may have seen the DHL aircraft after it
- "The aircraft had no fire".
- "There was a small fire under the plane, near the tail section".
- "There was a large fire coming from the left wing".
The NTSB was faced with a similar variance of statements from the AA
587 witnesses. Instead of approaching the witnesses with the same
patience and methodical study as they did when they deciphered the bits
of data (the ones and zeros) from the flight data recorder –– the NTSB
decided, in June of 2002, to issue a press
that used the varying accounts as a way to discredit the
entire pool of witnesses.
Critical clues ignored
U.S.Read's analysis of the eyewitness statements, along with interviews
with many of them, lead us to the conclusion the NTSB lost out on vital
clues that could have enhanced their interpretations of the physical
evidence. Had they investigated the most important of the eyewitnesses
–– those who saw the airplane before it began its nosedive (while it
was still in a level attitude) –– the NTSB would have interpreted the
flight recorders differently. They would have interpreted them
If you have followed U.S.Read's coverage from the time of the crash,
you know that we were particularly concerned by several eyewitness
accounts of the aircraft exploding, or on fire, while it was in a level
attitude –– before the tail separated.
Retired Firefighter Tom Lynch, a witness who saw the aircraft explode
while it was level and before the tail separated, had met more than two
dozen of his neighbors who also saw the aircraft explode/or on fire
while it was level. Mr. Lynch, greatly disturbed by the NTSB's
public statements that there were no indications of any in-flight fire
or explosion, organized a small group of these witnesses in January
2002. They sent a letter of petition to the NTSB requesting that they
have the opportunity to testify at the Hearings. Their request
was denied. This modest group of eyewitnesses included retired
NYPD Police Lieutenant James Conrad and FDNY Deputy Fire Chief Peter
When the NTSB released the full database of eyewitness statements to
the public in October 2002, we learned that there were at least 70
people (and perhaps more) who had seen the aircraft explode/on fire, while it was level
U.S.Read has determined that at least 43 eyewitnesses saw the tail
separate. Thirty-nine of those 43 reported unusual events
to tail separation ––
loud, unusual sounds, bangs, booms, pops,
very loud (at max power) or fires and explosions.
As far as we know, the NTSB interviewed not a single eyewitness in a
scientific manner. The NTSB never met with any eyewitness at the
location where that eyewitness was when they witnessed the crash.
The NTSB did not take line-of-sight measurements. They did not
try to triangulate a location in the sky where notable events were
witnessed and then compare that to the other evidence. They
didn't even conduct on-site interviews of the recreational boaters who
were the first to recover debris in Jamaica Bay –– had they done so
they would have easily determined that the tail separated later in the
crash sequence just before the plane crossed over the seawall.
The NTSB, and experts who believe that witnesses are a waste of time,
will say that since AA 587 had usable Digital Flight Data Recorder
(DFDR) and Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) information, the imperfect
accounts of eyewitnesses are unnecessary.
That might be true if the FDR and CVR were perfect
recorders; but they
are not. To provide appropriate context for this claim, please
allow for a brief digression.
DFDR and CVR - also imperfect and
The DFDR on AA 587 recorded some parameters as infrequently as once per
second. Some critical readings such as the rudder position were
only recorded twice a second –– and that was after having been averaged
or filtered. It is also not difficult to imagine some
malfunction, such as a fire or explosion, which might go undetected
initially by the DFDR. Aviation experts contributing to U.S.Read
suggest this is a possibility. A fire in an area not close to a
smoke detector, for instance, would not be recorded on the DFDR –– not
until the fire grew and the smoke spread.
Also, information within the DFDR can have multiple explanations or
interpretations. For example, the rudder data "going to zero" in
the DFDR could mean the tail had departed the airplane as the NTSB
assumed. Or, it could mean that there was a hydraulics
malfunction in the rear of the plane with a resulting loss of all
hydraulic pressure (zero pressure), or
the control or position sensor cables were damaged, etc.
more than one
possible interpretation for the rudder data
"going to zero".
As for the CVR, there is clear evidence that the CVR on AA 587
malfunctioned on several occasions (due to electrical disruptions on
board) especially during those critical moments when Pilot Sten Molin
was beginning his aggressive control inputs (see our Open Letter to the
). We know this both
from the NTSB's Sound Spectrum Study and from Mr. Molin's Air Traffic
Control (ATC) transmissions which were not
recorded by the CVR (but were
heard and recorded on ATC
It's fair to say, then, that these recorders are imperfect.
Therefore, they are not completely
reliable. And that puts these recorders in a similar category as
the eyewitness –– potentially very useful, but imperfect.
The witnesses cannot be ignored –– as the flight recorders cannot be
ignored. And despite what the NTSB says
about how they handled the eyewitness statements, the reality is –– the
NTSB ignored them.
Twenty seven witnesses –– in their own
The selection of witness statements below is taken directly from the
NTSB's public docket. In some cases, the witnesses also submitted
illustrations of what they saw and those pictures are included here as
Comments inserted in [square brackets] and (parentheses) are from
U.S.Read unless otherwise noted. Some of those comments contain
information gained from the dozens of interviews conducted by U.S.Read.
#9 (as numbered in the NTSB docket), Susan A.
NTSB's conclusions –– not supported by
: "...[she] was in
a position to observe the airplane's right side . . . then saw an
just in front of the airplane's tail and well behind the aircraft's
wings. The explosion observed by [her] was a "ball of fire" that
appeared to originate inside the airplane and expand outward. . . these
flames were red, orange, and grey. . . the ball of fire appeared to
the entire height and width of the airplane; and that the ball of fire
continued to travel with the airplane . . . The ball of fire
emitted charcoal-grey smoke . . . [She] also saw pieces of debris spray
of the airplane from the same spot . . . At the same moment the ball of
fire emerged from the airplane, the tail piece of the airplane fell
away from the rest of the aircraft . . . it fell off quickly, as if
the force of the explosion just ahead of it."
Witness 14, Mr. Terry Auclair (In a
boat with witness 38)
: " . . . he
was fishing in Jamaica Bay . . . when he heard a loud pop from the
sky. [He] stated that he looked up in the sky and witnessed a
plane on fire, and appeared to have some debris break off and hit the
tail section, which subsequently
(the tail) separated from the
Witness 38, Kenny Brown (in a boat
with witness 14)
: " . . . pieces from around
the middle of the plane were flying back towards the tail . . . Now at
same time the plane started to drop the right wing showing us the belly
where I observed smoke (around the middle between the wings and
engines) at this same instant I saw the pieces that were coming off the
plane hitting the tail which at that point the tail tore off . . . From
time I seen [sic] the plane till the time it crashed I never lost sight
Witnesses 14 and 38, also interviewed
by U.S.Read, were so close to the
final flight path that debris from AA 587 was falling all around
them. They were the first boat on the scene and recovered pieces
of the aircraft including rudder pieces. Terry told U.S.Read that
some non-composite debris did not float but sank to the Bay
floor. We know from the NYPD Harbor Unit that a detailed search
of the Bay floor for debris was not
done and the NTSB has never
produced any document identifying if any pieces were recovered from the
Witness 18, Robert B. (an active duty
NYPD Officer at the time, was in
a boat with witness 321)
: "he was fishing in a small boat
[in the Bay] . . . he saw pieces of the plane falling to the water . .
. he saw
a very small fire on the right wing close to the fuselage . . . he saw
long white object fall from the rear
of the plane." (The
witness told U.S.Read he thinks this could have been the tail or pieces
of the rudder but is certain that the tail was attached when he and his
two buddies saw the plane level, and on fire. He was an active
duty NYPD officer at the time who feels the investigators had no
respect for their statements).
Witness 321, Charlie V. (in a boat
with witness 18)
: "I was
fishing with two friends on a 16 foot boat in Jamaica Bay . . . I
toward the west and saw a jet plane with its left wing on fire.
The jet was flying toward the south. The plane seemed to be
flying normally with the exception of the fire. I said to my
friends 'Wow! That plane's in trouble.' . . . At that point the
seemed to be attempting to turn left or back toward the east in the
direction of Kennedy Airport. Just as the plane was beginning to
turn, something fell off the aircraft at the rear . . . "
U.S.Read interviewed witnesses 18, and
321 who were in the
same boat. Their statements were consistent. The plane was
on fire before tail separation.
Witness 54, Joanne Catanese, retired
: "I observed an
airplane that was flying south towards the ocean –– the left side of
plane, from the left wing to the tail, exploded, which caused the
aircraft to bank left and spiral down to the earth. There were flames
coming from the aircraft after the explosion. I vaguely remember seeing
something falling away from the aircraft towards the north, but I
cannot describe what it was. When the explosion occurred, it seemed
like the airplane stood still for a moment before it banked to the left
and plummeted to the ground."
U.S.Read has interviewed Joanne and her
account of a piece flying off
the airplane is similar to that of Witness 253, John Power, who also
described a piece fly off to the north.
Witness 60 (only one block from the
Joanne and John were both at least two miles from Flight 587. For
them to see a piece of the aircraft come off –– that piece must have
been large. That piece in all likelihood is the tail. It's
evident from both their statements the aircraft was on fire or exploded
large piece separated.
: "We heard a
loud roar from a plain [sic] engine such as the SST [Concorde] . . . I
looked up and saw a plain [sic] coming at us from the north sky . . . I
flames and dark grey smoke coming from the left side wing next to the
plane body . . . Than [sic] I saw a part break away from the plane and
like a playing card to the right of the plane with the letter (A) on
it" (see Figure 5).
5 - Witness 60's drawing
Witness 63 (from FBI report)
"witness was at 141st and Newport Avenue
(10 blocks west of the crash site). Was outside his car when he heard a
plane and looked up over his head. Saw a plane flying low between 500 -
1000 feet . . . and coming in at a slight angle (In the NYPD
the witness stated he looked at the plane because he heard what sounded
like the Concorde –– this in all likelihood means the aircraft had gone
to max power. According to the NTSB, the crew didn't go to max
power until after the tail had come off). The witness saw the left wing
dip down and the saw a large piece of the tail fly off the plane ––
[this piece] flew toward the direction of the Bay".
This witness did not see an explosion
but what is important about their
statement is that he observes the aircraft after it has gone to max
power, it is lower than usual, yet the tail was still attached.
Witness 72, John D.
he turned the corner (in his car), he
continued to look out his window at the airplane. There was no
fire or smoke, but the airplane was definitely making a loud
noise. He saw the airplane nosing toward the ground. He
then heard a pop, like an electrical line popping, then an
explosion. Right after the explosion, the airplane seemed to veer
towards the right, at a 3/4 degree to nose down attitude. He did
not see any flames shooting from the bottom of the airplane during the
explosion. He saw a puff of white smoke about where the left
engine should be located. Then he saw the tail of the airplane
blown off. He saw the letters AA on the tail as it feathered into
the water. He saw debris in the air. He saw in quick
succession, one of the two engines completely on fire sailing past the
left of his car, and then the other engine fail."
Witness 97, Angela F.
: " . . .
it was when I looked back the second time
was when I saw the explosion. There was a huge orange
(orange-red) fireball that was located where the front of the right
wing where it meets the body of the plane . . . In shock, I watched the
fireball turn into a ball of gray-black smoke . . . I see what I
was the outer half of the right wing falling straight down . . . To my
amazement the plane continued to fly south (towards the ocean) still
flying straight and level . . . I can say the plane was completely
prior to the explosion." (She also told interviewers that the
outer half of the right wing may have been the tail –– she was certain
that a large
separated from the plane after the
explosion; this was in all likelihood the
tail as no large sections of either wing were found in the Bay and in
the inboard sections of both wings were found at the crash site).
6 - Witness 97's drawing
Witness 100, an active Nassau County
: "I was on patrol
in Nassau County Police Dept. Marine Bureau . . . I noticed a large jet
flying west to slightly south west which appeared to have a large fire
at midsection of fuselage centerline of rear left wing . . . Then the
started to go into a left bank turn the fuselage fire was clearly
visible. I was an aircraft mechanic for 5 years . . . We were
4 miles away which we later clarified using the charts and had no
obstructions in the way of our vision . . . Prior to contacting the
ground a large piece separated from the plane." From the FBI
"[He] said he watched the plane for about fifteen seconds and then
said, 'They did it again'."
Witness 100 told U.S.Read the fire
was visible before the tail
separated. The large piece he saw separate not long before
could only be the tail as it is highly improbable he could see any
debris separating at a distance of 4 miles.
Witness 101 (from NYPD and FBI
: "the middle of the body was
on fire - it stalled and started to nosedive - as it fell we could see
the tail detach."
U.S.Read note: Witnesses 112 and 113 below are unique as they appear to
be the only
witnesses who saw
Flight 587 fly over them as they were
sitting in their car in a bird sanctuary in the middle of Jamaica Bay:
Witness 112 (in her minivan with her
husband, witness 113)
: "[She was]
watching the airplanes pass overhead as they [the planes] flew out of
JFK. [She] was watching one plane fly away from her direction
when suddenly flames shot out from the right side of the airplane near
where the wing is attached to the cabin. [She] noted that the
plane was approximately two miles away. After the flames shot out
from the right side of the plane it began to slowly turn to the left
facing the bay away from land. [She] then saw something fall off
the back of the airplane."
Witness 113 (he is the husband of
: "After hearing
his wife gasp he looked out . . . and noticed an airplane flying
from his vehicle . . . approximately a mile and half or two
miles away . . . [he] saw a ball of flame shoot out from the
right side of the
airplane. [He] believed the flames shot out from somewhere behind
the cockpit just in front of the starboard wing. The plane then
slowly turned to the left facing the bay. [He] then observed
something fall off of the back of the plane."
Witness 117, Ed G. (with witness 344)
"I work at Floyd Bennet
Field. The morning of the crash, my partner and I were making our
rounds, as we turned towards the Bay we could see a plane ascending, at
that moment we saw an explosion behind the wing (right side) near
bottom. It looked like a section of the cargo or luggage bay fell
out immediately in the Bay."
Witness 344, Andre W. (with witness
: " [He] states he was
looking out over the water watching an airliner take off. [He]
states he saw a bright flash and heard a popping sound. The flash
was an explosion on the fuselage of the aircraft between the wings and
tail. The explosion caused the tail section of the airplane to
separate from the plane as the luggage fell out of the aircraft into
the water . . . the tail broke off the plane turned on it's (sic) side
no flame or visible damage to the remainder of the plane. At this
point the plane continued to lose it's [sic] luggage and then crashed
into the ground causing a large black plume of smoke."
Witnesses 117 and 344, also interviewed
by U.S.Read, had a unique view
of Flight 587 as they were directly west of the flight path and had a
clear view of the starboard (right) side of the aircraft from their
location at Floyd Bennet Field. Both men told U.S.Read they
thought a very large object from inside the aircraft fell out and fell
quickly straight down to the Bay; whatever it was they said it did not
flutter down (as we know from other witnesses is how the tail
descended). Both men were convinced this object was not the
Witness 140, Mike (with witness 283 in
a boat in the Bay west of the
flight path –– near Floyd Bennet Field)
: From the FBI's notes:
fishing . . . on his boat in Jamaica Bay . . . [He] heard a blast which
like an explosion and thought it may have been the SST Concord jet
taking off . . . When he looked up, he saw an airplane on fire.
saw smoke and dark orange flames." From the NTSB's notes: "He saw
an engine fall off the airplane and then saw the tail fall off.
Many pieces of paper were falling also."
When interviewed by U.S.Read, witness
140 told U.S.Read he is certain
the aircraft had a fire before the tail fell off –– the only reason he
fixed his gaze on AA 587 was because of the fire.
Witness 283, Robert (with witness 140
in a boat)
: " . . . he was on a
fishing boat with two other men in Jamaica Bay . . . [He] heard an
explosion. He then looked in the direction of the explosion and
saw the tail of [the] aircraft fall off. He saw flames
at the tail of the aircraft shoot through the aircraft. The
aircraft continued to fly briefly then twisted and went straight down."
Interviewed by U.S.Read, witness 283
stated that along with witness
140, he heard an explosion that made him look at the aircraft.
When he spotted the aircraft, it was already on fire and the tail
departed after he heard the explosion and noticed the fire.
Witness 172 ("he was working with 2
co-workers, on the beach boardwalk
lampposts located between 122nd and 123rd Streets")
is common to hear planes fly above him at this location; however, he
was facing west and noticed a plane flying quite low, slightly to the
north. He looked down and heard a loud "POOF", like backfire and
looked up. He saw the engine fall off the plane and hit the tail
where he saw the American Airlines (AA) logo. He said, "oh no,
not another AA plane". He saw smoke billowing, the plane fly
through the smoke and the engine fall."
Witness 185. Retired Firefighter Tom
: "In my line of view a
plane just finishing its banked turn and heading east to head out over
the ocean . . . my eyes filled with horror . . . an orange red
fuselage of the aircraft behind or near the aft part of the wing,
flowed [sic] by a larger second burst or [sic] flames . . . Oh S*** Oh
they did it again".
Mr. Lynch told the FBI on the day of
the crash that he saw something
large (he believes it was the tail) separate after the
explosions. Just hours after the crash, Mr. Lynch identified
himself as a firefighter to a local AM Radio program and specifically
stated that only after the explosions did the aircraft begin breaking
Witness 196, with her husband,
residing at 536 Beach 126th street –– just
6 blocks from the crash site and under the final flight path (From NYPD
and NTSB interviews):
"she was sitting at the kitchen table
when she heard what she knew to be a low flying airplane with an
unexplainable noise. Her husband, an aircraft mechanic at JFK,
said that he distinctively heard an engine compressor stall. She
looked out her kitchen window that faces north-east, overlooking
Jamaica Bay, and saw an American Airlines jet flying lower than normal.
At that moment she observed the tail blow off along with numerous
unidentifiable smaller pieces. The tail traveled up for a moment
and began to fall in a spinning motion toward the water.
Witness 253, John Power
There are three very important elements
about witness 196's statement:
(1) The plane was lower than normal and,
(2) The plane was making unusual sounds which her husband, an aircraft
mechanic, identified to the NYPD as "prolonged" compressor stalls.
(3) The tail came off after
items 1 and 2 were observed.
U.S.Read believes the engine compressor stalls were a result of the out
of control flight (which included some brief, yet violent spins or
rolls) that had taken place immediately after the Flight Data Recorder
all data. A few seconds after that loss of control –– the
stopped spinning, stalled, and started a slow descent in a nose-up or
mostly level attitude. The tail was still
attached for part of
this descent, as were both engines. This part of the descent is
evident on the tollbooth video and the aircraft is clearly in a level
attitude in the video; it has not yet pitched down (Figure 7).
There is no evidence that the engine stalls were a
contributing factor, or that the engines stalled prior to the time the
NTSB believes the tail departed (at 9:15:58.5 –– the time of the loud
Witness 196's statement along with her husband's provide powerful
testimony that AA 587 was in serious trouble before the tail
departed, and that the tail departed later
in the crash sequence.
For the sake of brevity we will not
include John's account here except to say that we believe John to be a
witness as we are
convinced he first observes the aircraft
during the Pilot's aggressive control inputs (before the NTSB believes
the tail departed). John's statement is that the tail was still
when the aircraft flew out of control, and didn't depart until later in
the sequence. Our November 21, 2001 videotaped interview with John is
: "He heard a
muffled 'boom.' He looked up and
observed the accident airplane, noting that the engines sounded louder
than normal, more like the Concorde. He observed a little puff of
'smoke' near the tail, and then observed that the vertical tail dropped
off. After the fin separated he saw half a dozen pieces of
material fall of the airplane as it continued to fly. The
airplane banked to the left, while the engines were still roaring . .
[He] had aviation experience as a Navy Aviation Ordinance man. At
that time, his duties then included observing inbound aircraft for
configuration and hung ordinance [weapons]".
: "My wife and I
were located at JFK Terminal 9, Concourse
D . . . When I first spotted the aircraft on the horizon it was falling
nose first . . . after the impact, we did witness parts falling from
the crash site. I saw two sizable pieces falling at a similar
rate of speed. While I could not make out what they were, they
were large enough to be see [sic] from our location some 2 miles or
further away . . . my wife and I both witnessed a white cloud of smoke
where the aircraft had fallen. The parts we witnessed falling
also originated from this white cloud of smoke."
8 - Witness 272's drawing
When considering the distance this witness was from the crash site and
the likelihood the white cloud of smoke is the same white cloud of
smoke as seen on the tollbooth video, the two sizable pieces this
witness is referring to are in all likelihood the tail and one of the
larger pieces of the rudder. The large cloud of smoke seen on the
tollbooth video emerges from the aircraft at 9:16:06.2; almost 8
seconds after the NTSB says the tail separated (see Figure 9).
Figure 9 - Image from Tollbooth Video
providing strong similarity to Witness 272's drawing
(U.S.Read mirrored / flipped
horizontally Figure 9 from the tollbooth video. We did so to
present what those images would look like to someone viewing the flight
from the east –– as was the case with witness 272. The tollbooth
camera was west of the flight path)
report, the tollbooth video, and the radar data, all suggest –– that
most significant breakup of Flight 587 (including the tail) occurred
several seconds after the NTSB stated time.
: "[He] heard
a loud pop. [He] said the pop
sounded like a cap gun shot. [His] attention was drawn to the
sky. [He] observed an American Airlines aircraft in the
sky. [He] advised that he observed the port-side [left] engine on
fire. [He] also observed the tail-fin of the aircraft separate
from the plane.
These compelling statements leave the reader with the clear impression
that the tail separating from AA 587 was a consequence of some
other series of events. What is also clear is that a fire and/or
explosion was visible to many before
The NTSB's ability to discredit all these people and fail to see the
powerful clues they offer has been a very disturbing aspect of this
If our justice system has enough faith in people's sense of sight and
sound to convict and even execute people based on the
testimony of a single eyewitness, why does the NTSB ignore such
compelling evidence when it comes not from one witness, but
Additional compelling witness statements could have been included
but it was decided to publish only those who could provide some clues
about when the tail separated.
For instance, we did not include Michael Benjamin (witness # 23), as he
could not make any statement about the tail. But what he saw is
still gripping. He witnessed AA 587 in seemingly normal flight
(along with 3 of his family members) but for the fact that there was a
"roaring fire" on the right side.
Retired NYPD Officer, Jim Conrad (witness 62), saw AA 587 spew out
smoke, followed by an explosion, with the back half of the aircraft
enveloped in flames and dark smoke –– before
large debris started falling from the aircraft.
Many witnesses (like Mr. Benjamin and Mr. Conrad) do not recall, or did
not see, when
the tail (or a "wing" as some referred to it) broke off but they offer
convincing statements of an aircraft in a level attitude, flying
normally, with the exception of a noticeable fire or explosion.
It is impossible
the witness statements with the NTSB's conclusions about AA 587.
If the other evidence available to investigators –– the debris field,
tollbooth video, radar data, CVR, DFDR, cockpit warnings, Air Traffic
Control tapes –– were in conflict with the eyewitness statements then
the NTSB's conclusions would have a strong foundation. However,
the bulk of evidence corroborates
statements –– leaving the NTSB's conclusions on a very dubious
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