On the morning of March 1, 1962, American Airlines Flight 001 carrying 95 passengers on board took off from New York's International Airport in Queens. Within a few minutes of departure, the plane's automatic piloting system malfunctioned, causing it to veer sharply to the left before flipping over with its belly up. The pilots were unable to retake control, and the plane descended with incredible speed into a pumpkin patch channel, in Jamaica Bay. Upon impact, a huge explosion triggered a three alarm fire creating a difficult situation for firefighters to control the flames. The impact was so great that it was felt by many Long Island residents living near the scene. The large explosion was caused by a full gas tank. The Boeing 707, was only three years old and had approximately 8000 flight hours remaining upon last inspection.
All 95 passengers perished in the crash. Emergency personnel responding to the crash site determined that most bodies were unidentifiable and would require the use of dental records for verification. Reportedly, the plane had encountered issues with the electrical wiring for its automatic piloting systems. As part of the investigation, inspectors discovered that some of the employees who had worked in the electrical system had used tweezers to handle the wiring during construction. Inspectors determined that the fraying caused by tweezers was probable cause for the malfunction. Although crash site investigators discovered that a bolt and a cotter pin were missing from the rudder, it is believed that these items might have been lost during the crash.
Following the incident, President Kennedy instructed the Federal Aviation Agency to do everything in its power to prevent future plane crashes of this magnitude from occuring again.