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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Probe Points to Mechanical Failure

NEW YORK -- Mechanical failure was the most likely cause of the American Airlines crash into a New York neighborhood that killed 260 people on the plane and at least five on the ground, but sabotage could not be completely ruled out, investigators said Tuesday.

Recovery crews and investigators searched the wreckage through the night after Monday's fiery crash of the Airbus A300-600, which broke up in pieces minutes after taking off from New York's Kennedy Airport bound for Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.

The crash destroyed homes and left debris strewn over many blocks of a quiet, middle class neighborhood in Queens where many of the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks on the city's World Trade Center lived.

Armed with the cockpit voice recorder, officials sought to allay fears that the crash might have been caused by sabotage in a grisly repeat of the Sept. 11 hijack attacks.

"There was nothing on the tape that would lead us to believe that it was anything other than an aviation accident," National Transportation Safety Board spokesman George Black said on ABC's "Good Morning America."

In an interview with NBC's "Today" show, Black said the possibility of sabotage or a bomb could not be excluded.

"We are not going to exclude that possibility until the investigation goes much further than this, but right now there is no evidence [of sabotage]," Black said.

He added that there was nothing on the tape to suggest any intrusion by hijackers into the cockpit -- a scenario already ruled out by the fact that the plane broke into pieces before it hit the ground.

Police said 265 bodies had been found, believed to be the 260 passengers and crew and five people on the ground who died when the plane hit the seaside Rockaway neighborhood of Queens. Four more people who were on the ground were reported missing.

NTSB officials sent to the scene said investigators were focusing on finding the flight data recorder that would provide more information about the doomed aircraft, which was carrying mostly Dominicans and Dominican-Americans to the Caribbean nation for family visits.

Citizens of the Dominican Republic, the United States, France, Colombia, Taiwan and Haiti were on board the aircraft, according to a partial passenger list released by American Airlines early Tuesday.

The NTSB said investigators would also be looking very closely at the engines, General Electric CF6 engines that are widely used, including on Air Force One, the U.S. president's plane. The Airbus' maintenance records and those involved in servicing the aircraft would also be investigated.

Pieces of the plane were pulled out of the water in nearby Jamaica Bay and two engines separated from the fuselage, indicating the plane started breaking up soon after takeoff, Black said.

American Airlines Flight 587, a regularly scheduled flight from New York to the Dominican Republic's capital, took off at 9:14 a.m. and crashed about two minutes later, officials said.

About a dozen houses were destroyed or damaged by the crash and the fire that followed. Smoke billowed into the sky and clothes, broken suitcases and other debris hung from burning trees.

Witnesses said the plane split apart and hit the ground nose first. Some said they heard an explosion before the plane crashed, but there were conflicting reports.