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Relatives Mourn Family on Flight

November 13, 2001

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) _ Dozens of mourners packed a spartan apartment Monday, fearing five of their relatives were lost in the American Airlines jet crash in New York.

Leonardo De La Cruz, his wife, Clara, their two children and his father were believed to be among the 260 people on the flight bound for the Dominican Republic.

By Monday night, neither the airline nor authorities had released the names of any victims. One of the passengers was a sailor from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, the carrier’s captain said.

Relatives said the De La Cruz family planned a two-week vacation in their native Dominican Republic to celebrate a baptism.

``I think it’s a dream I want to wake up from,″ Leonardo’s sister, 49-year-old Felicia Rollins, said as about 45 relatives wept and talked about the crash.

``I hope they took a different flight and are somewhere else safe,″ she said in Spanish as her daughter, Belkis, translated for reporters.

Leonardo and Clara De La Cruz were traveling with their son, Glen, 19, their daughter, Karla, who was believed to be 12 or 13, and Leonardo’s 77-year-old father, Leonte.

Like many of the Dominicans in Providence, the De La Cruzes went to Intercontinental Travel Service to buy their tickets.

Bladimir Rodriguez, Intercontinental’s Dominican-born owner, closed the office as soon as he heard the plane had crashed.

``Every time a plane goes down, we’re all hurt. When they said it was a flight to the Dominican Republic, it hit very close to home,″ Rodriguez said.

Just Sunday, the De La Cruzes were feted at a bon voyage party. Relatives danced into the night, telling stories and recording a videotape for the De La Cruzes to show family back home. The family left on a bus early Monday for New York.

Leonardo and Clara De La Cruz had moved to the United States 20 years ago and worked as machine operators at Cranston Print Works in Cranston, according to relatives.

Glen was a supermarket manager in Cranston and his younger sister was a student at Gilbert Stuart Middle School.

Ruth Rivera, an agent at Intercontinental Travel, said Glen was originally booked on a flight next Monday. Glen’s mother changed his flight, telling the travel agent she was nervous about leaving her son home alone.

Navy officials Monday night could not confirm that a sailor from the Enterprise was killed. The carrier pulled into Norfolk on Saturday after spending more than six months at sea.

But Capt. James A. Winnefeld Jr., the Enterprise’s commanding officer, told The Associated Press he had confirmation of the sailor’s death. The sailor’s name was not released.

``It appears a sailor was killed in today’s crash,″ he said in a phone interview from his home in Norfolk.

The Enterprise left Norfolk in April and had been heading home on Sept. 11. The carrier was recalled to the Arabian Sea and it was used as a base for launching the earliest air strikes against Afghanistan.

Update hourly