Anxious Relatives and Friends Fear Worst in Crash With Jetliner Down
Jan. 26, 1990
COVE NECK, N.Y. (AP) _ Anxious friends and relatives fretted over scant news at Kennedy International Airport while rescue workers struggled on Long Island's heavily wooded north shore to find survivors of Avianca Flight 52.
Local television showed pictures of dazed survivors being pulled from the wreckage, some bloodied. Some people appeared to be trapped in the twisted metal and some lay motionless. Others, including several children, were carried away crying by rescuers.
Amanda Pinzon, 27, of Elizabeth, N.J., who was waiting at Kennedy with relatives who had come to meet the plane, cried with joy when she saw her husband, Jesus, and 2-year-old son, Brian, on television, among the survivors being taken to hospitals.
''I feel great, I'm so happy - happy, crying, everything,'' she said.
Her 13-year-old niece, Jo Ellen Pena, said her uncle and cousin were bandaged and bloody but seemed to be OK.
Dr. Bruce Rebold, who lives in the affluent, sparsely populated area near the crash site, said he was reading the newspaper and a movie script when a picture fell off the wall and some pottery fell down.
He didn't hear anything but he felt the impact of what he later found out was the crash. He looked out his window and did not see anything and ran out to the site.
Rebold said he saw a portion of the fuselage with the red lettering ''Avianca.''
''It looked like it hit a hill and cracked in half. I saw people trying to scramble out of the plane. I didn't see any bodies,'' he said. ''It was shocking. It was like being on a movie set.''
At Kennedy Airport, about 200 anxious relatives and friends waited in the first class lounge of Pan American World Airways, but complained that they received very little information from the remote site. Late reports had possibly as many as 50 dead and scores more injured.
Mark Marchese, a spokesman for the Port Authority, said, ''They know it's a crash but it's a very eerie calm, very little hysteria.''
He said priests and rabbis were offering emotional support to those waiting. Others, however, sought comfort in finding out as much information as they could.
Several of the relatives wandered over to a bank of pay-for-view miniature television sets in the airport and watched for the latest information.
Among those waiting for word of survivors was Jairo Perez, who said he saw his sister, Elena, on television. He said Elena had gone to Colombia to adopt a girl. He said the child also survived.
In tears, he said in Spanish: ''They're alive.''
The Boeing 707 crashed at about 9:45 p.m. near Oyster Bay Harbor in an affluent area just south of the Sagamore Hill National Historic Site, home of President Theodore Roosevelt. It is a isolated, wooded area of expensive homes on two-acre lots whose residents include the parents of tennis pro John McEnroe.
Rescue efforts were hindered by the narrow road that leads to the crash site. The road was clogged with rescue vehicle and many of the rescue crews had to park far away from the crash site and carry equipment to the injured passengers.