Flight 587: Video May Hold the Key

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Frustrated investigators looking into the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 have an important new piece of evidence. Government sources tell Time that analysts at the National Transportation Safety Board last week got their first look at a remarkable videotape of the deadly accident. Recorded by a surveillance camera at a New York City area tollbooth, the tape captures nearly the entire catastrophe that sent the Airbus A300 crashing into a residential neighborhood in Queens less than 3 min. after takeoff from John F. Kennedy International Airport on Nov. 12. According to an NTSB source, the plane can be seen "flying along normally and intact, and suddenly things start to go very wrong." The video records the plane as it begins its descent. The crash is obscured, but the tape continues to run and smoke can be seen rising from the scene. Experts at the NTSB are optimistic that the tape will help answer critical questions about the precise sequence of events as the plane began to break apart, and exactly how and when the tail section separated from the body of the plane. This is the second video record the board has obtained of the crash, but the first one was virtually useless because the plane could be seen only as a tiny speck.