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Stunned Kin Gather After Crash

A handful of relatives and friends of the passengers aboard Swissair Flight 111 showed up overnight at John F. Kennedy International Airport, where the ill-fated plane had picked up about 184 of its passengers Wednesday night en route to Geneva, CBS News Correspondent Diana Olick reports.
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The jetliner with 229 people aboard crashed off the coast of Nova Scotia late Wednesday, about an hour into the flight. The pilot had reported smoke in the cockpit and attempted an emergency landing at Halifax International Airport.

Swissair said there were no survivors. The victims included 136 Americans, 28 Swiss, 30 French, and those of other nationalities. Swissair said the passenger list will not be released until family members are notified.

Authorities have set up information hotlines for relatives and friends of Flight 111 passengers:

  • In the United States, the Delta Helpline: 1-800-801-0088.
  • Within Switzerland: 022/717 8300 or 01/803 17 17.
  • Outside of Switzerland: +41 22 717 8300 or +41 1 803 17 17.
Security guards and police officers took them downstairs, away from the Swissair terminal, for private counseling.

At JFK, a special lounge was set up in the Delta Air Lines terminal where grief counselors were available to talk to relatives and friends of passengers.

A similar situation unfolded in Switzerland, where more than 100 relatives of crash victims gathered at Geneva's Cointrin Airport. A team of grief counselors offered help.

FBI officials, police, and New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani were on hand at JFK airport to support the family members. Their first priority was to put together a list of those on the flight so that people will get more information.

Emergency vehicles came to the airport just hours after the news of the flight's crash to help some of the family members in shock from the tragic news, just as a precaution. Red Cross teams and ambulance personnel arrived to help relatives in need.

Michelle Auster, a spokeswoman for the Red Cross, said there were a few families at the airport: "They're in a state of shock."

Giuliani said he knew a few of the family members awaiting word at JFK when the mayor arrived Wednesday night.

"It was terrible, because it turned out that their worst fears were true," he said.

"The families had to leave here with a sense of now trying to figure out how to get up to Halifax and identify the remains of their loved ones and not being able to bring them back," the mayor said.

Giuliani said that, while the Swissair personnel were themselves distressed by the oss of co-workers, they were "doing a very good job of comforting the families that have been here."

The scene at Kennedy was reminiscent of another summer night two years ago. Paris-bound TWA Flight 800 crashed into the Atlantic minutes after takeoff from Kennedy on July 17, 1996. All 230 people aboard died.

A middle-aged man wearing a gray suit told reporters he had put his wife and two daughters on the plane. As reporters flocked around him asking questions, police escorted him into a police car and drove him behind the terminal, out of view.