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50 Dead After Continental Plane Crashes into House

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Yahoo.com: A commuter plane coming in for a landing nose-dived into a house in suburban Buffalo, sparking a fiery explosion and killing all 48 people on board and one person in the home. It was the first fatal crash of a commercial airliner in the U.S. in 2 1/2 years.
Witnesses heard the twin turboprop aircraft sputtering before it went down in light snow and fog around 10:20 p.m. Thursday about five miles from Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

Continental Connection Flight 3407 from Newark, N.J., came in squarely through the roof of the house, its tail section visible through the blazing rubble.

"The whole sky was lit up orange," said Bob Dworak, who lives less than a mile from the crash site. "All the sudden, there was a big bang, and the house shook."

One person in the home was killed, and two others inside escaped with minor injuries. Among the 44 passengers killed was a woman whose husband died in the World Trade Center attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. A fellow 9/11 activist said Beverly Eckert was heading to Buffalo for a celebration of what would have been her husband's 58th birthday.
By morning light, with the rubble still smoking, the task of retrieving remains had not yet begun.

The plane "basically dove right into the top of the house," said Clarence emergency control director, calling it "clearly a direct hit."

"It's remarkable that it only took one house," Bissonette said. "As devastating as it was, it could've easily wiped out that entire neighborhood on a strafing run type of thing."
No mayday call came from the pilot before the crash, according to a recording of air traffic control's radio messages captured by the Web site LiveATC.net.

Neither the controller nor the pilot showed concern that anything was out of the ordinary as the airplane was asked to fly at 2,300 feet.

The 74-seat Q400 Bombardier aircraft, operated by Colgan Air, was flying from Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey. A spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security in Washington said there was no indication terrorism was involved.
The National Transportation Safety Board sent a team of crash investigators to Buffalo early Friday.

After the crash, at least two pilots were heard on air traffic control messages saying they had been picking up ice on their wings.

"We've been getting ice since 20 miles south of the airport," one said.

While residents of the neighborhood where the plane went down were used to planes rumbling overhead, witnesses said this one sounded louder than usual, sputtered and made some odd noises.

Neighbor David Luce said he and his wife were working on their computers when they heard the plane come in low.

"It didn't sound normal," he said. "We heard it for a few seconds, then it stopped, then a couple of seconds later was this tremendous explosion."

Dworak drove to the site after hearing the crash, and "all we were seeing was 50 to 100 foot flames and a pile of rubble on the ground. It looked like the house just got destroyed the instant it got hit."

One person in the home was killed, and two others inside, Karen Wielinski, 57, and her daughter, Jill, 22, were able to escape with minor injuries. Twelve homes were evacuated near the crash site.

The plane was carrying 5,000 pounds of fuel and apparently exploded on impact, said Erie County Executive Chris Collins.

Firefighters got as close to the plane as they could, he said. "They were shouting out to see if there were any survivors on the plane. Truly a very heroic effort, but there were no survivors."

It was the first fatal crash of a commercial airliner in the United States since Aug. 27, 2006, when 49 people were killed after a Comair jetliner took off from a Lexington, Ky., runway that was too short.

Houston-based Continental Airlines issued a statement saying that preliminary information showed the plane carried 44 passengers and a crew of four.

About 30 relatives and others who arrived at the airport in the overnight hours were escorted into a private area and then taken by bus to a senior citizens center in the neighboring town of Cheektowaga, where counselors and representatives from Continental waited to help.

"At this time, the full resources of Colgan Air's accident response team are being mobilized and will be devoted to cooperating with all authorities responding to the accident and to contacting family members and providing assistance to them," the statement said.

"Continental extends its deepest sympathy to the family members and loved ones of those involved in this accident," said Larry Kellner, chairman and CEO of Continental Airlines, in a later statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the family members and loved ones of those involved in the flight 3407 tragedy."

Continental's release said relatives and friends of those on Flight 3407 who wanted to give or receive information about those on board could telephone a special family assistance number, 1-800-621-3263.


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