Deafening cries of sorrow echoed through the airport Monday as relatives awaiting the arrival of loved ones collapsed in grief after being told that American Airlines Flight 587 crashed shortly after takeoff in New York.
"Not the child, please not the child!" sobbed Germania Brito who had gone to the airport to meet her sister Mariana Flores, her sister's husband, John, and their 2-year-old son, Isaias. "May God help us all."
The jetliner crashed minutes after takeoff in a residential neighborhood 5 miles from Kennedy Airport in New York City. Most passengers were Dominican, officials said.
Dozens of relatives, awaiting an official passenger list, came to Santo Domingo's Las Americas International Airport. Shrieks echoed throughout the airport as men collapsed in tears and women sobbed uncontrollably. Psychologists and medics were on hand for counseling.
Many in this poor Spanish-speaking nation had been waiting years to see loved ones. More than 500,000 Dominicans live in New York City.
While many assumed the worst, Eduardo Fresola was told his brother, Jose Antonio Nicolas Fresola, missed the flight because his 7-year-old sister got lost in the airport.
"I can't believe it, he wasn't on the plane," exclaimed Fresola, who earlier thought his brother, whom he hadn't seen in three years, was aboard the flight. "He's alive. He's safe."
Bernardo Then, American Airlines operations director for the Dominican Republic and Haiti, said the airline would be bringing in additional psychologists from Miami and San Juan to counsel relatives and would help make arrangements for relatives who wanted to fly to New York.