Relatives of passengers aboard American Airlines Flight 587 crowded the airport, sobbing and grasping each other after hearing the flight bound for the Caribbean nation crashed shortly after takeoff Monday.

"Oh my God" said Miriam Fajardo, crying after being told that her sister, Norma Lilian Baloi and three nephews were aboard the flight bound for Santo Domingo's Las Americas International Airport. "I hadn't seen them in eight years. Now they're gone."

The jetliner, carrying 255 people, crashed moments after takeoff in a residential neighborhood five miles from Kennedy Airport in New York city, authorities said.

"I woke up early just to greet them," said Melida Reinoso who had gone to the airport to meet her husband and son. "Why did this happen?"

The flight had been due to arrive at 12:51 p.m.

"Not the child, please not the child," said Germania Brito who was waiting for her sister Mariana Flores, her sister's husband, John, and their 2-year-old son Isaias. "May God help us all."

Bill Schumann of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said there was no immediate indication of what caused the crash, which came two months after terrorists in two hijacked airliners brought down the World Trade Center.