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49 Killed in Plane Crash Near Buffalo

Posted by tothewire on February 13, 2009


A Continental flight from Newark to Buffalo crashed into a house about five miles from Buffalo Niagara International Airport on Thursday night, killing 49 people, officials said.


The plane carried 44 passengers and a crew of 4, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. All the people aboard the plane and one person in the house were killed in the crash, which occurred in the hamlet of Clarence Center, N.Y., said Chris Collins, the Erie County executive.


Two other people in the house, a woman and child, suffered minor injuries and were taken to a hospital, Mr. Collins said. Michael P. Hughes, a spokesman for Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital in Williamsville, N.Y., said that the two had been treated and released.


The plane, Continental Connection Flight 3407, crashed about 10:20, five minutes before it was due to land. The plane — a Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 with 74 seats and twin turboprop engines — was on approach to land. It was operated by Colgan Airways, a feeder airline for Continental.

David Bissonette, the emergency coordinator for Erie County, speaking at a news conference about 4 a.m., said the plane made “a direct hit” on the house, which officials said was located at 6038 Long Street in Clarence Center, part of the Town of Clarence.

“It’s remarkable that it only took one house,” he said. “It could have easily taken the whole neighborhood.”

He said the only recognizable piece of the plane was the tail. The investigation, he said, would be “painstaking” because of the amount of damage to the plane and the house.

Mr. Collins said that about 12 houses had been evacuated after the crash and that a limited state of emergency had been declared.


The crash, which occurred as a light snow fell in the area, was the second major one in a month in New York State, coming weeks after the Jan. 15 forced landing of a US Airways jet into the Hudson River in which all 155 people on board were pulled to safety.

Sandra Baker, who lives on Railroad Street, two blocks from the site of the crash on Thursday, said: “It was just like a huge great big crash, a boom.”

Both of her sons, volunteer firefighters, went to the scene.

“There was this banging sound” before the crash, she said. It was followed by a boom, then a dark cloud and flames and the smell of fuel and fire.

Another woman who lives nearby described the sound before the crash as “a loud roar over my house.”

“It was like the whole house shook,” said the woman, Jennifer Clark, who also lives on Railroad Street. “Then there was silence.”

Ms. Clark said she looked out of her window and saw a ball of flames rising into the sky.

She woke up her husband and said, “I think a plane just crashed.”

“I don’t know,” she said. “I feel bad for the people on the plane and their families. I feel bad for the firemen who have to recover the remains of those poor people.”

Ms. Baker described the town as “small-town U.S.A,” a place that will reel from what she was sure would be the biggest tragedy the town has ever seen.

A joint investigation was being conducted by the State Police, the Erie County Sheriff’s Office and the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority. A team of investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board will arrive in Buffalo on Friday morning.

Mr. Collins said families of the people on the plane had gathered at the Buffalo airport waiting for news.

At a command center where officials gathered after the accident, Chris Kausner told CNN that his sister was on the flight. He said she was connecting from Jacksonville, Fla., where she was a law student.

“Right now I’m thinking the worst,” Mr. Kausner said. “And I’m thinking of the fact that my mother has to fly in from Florida and what am I going to tell my two sons.”

When a reporter asked Mr. Kausner how his family was taking the news, he said: “I heard my mother make a sound into the phone that I had never heard before. So, not good.”


In the neighborhood where the crash occurred, flames rose high above the bare trees and neat houses. Neighbors rushed from their homes to the carnage, through a swell of emergency lights and sirens.

Brendan Biddlecom, who lives a few blocks from the crash, made his way with other neighbors.

“I didn’t get too close,” Mr. Biddlecom said. “I didn’t want to get too close. It was clear what was going on.”

By 2:30 a.m., the police had set up checkpoints around the neighborhood. The smell of burning fuel and rubber was still thick in the air.

Scott Bylewski, the Clarence town supervisor, said he heard the crash from his house, about a half mile away. “I took a look from my house and the sky was red,” Mr. Bylewski said at the 4 a.m. news conference. “I know when I go home I’m going to give my wife and kids a kiss.”

In a statement released early Friday, Gov. David A. Paterson said: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who were on board, and with the people of the Buffalo metropolitan area.”

Colgan, the operator of the plane, also flies as a feeder for US Airways and United Airlines. Colgan’s Web site said the airline operates 51 turboprops.

The last fatal crash involving a scheduled carrier in the United States was a ComAir regional jet in Lexington, Ky., in August 2006. The crew picked a too-short runway for takeoff; 47 passengers and 2 of the 3 crew members were killed.

Colgan, which has flown for Continental since 1997, is owned by Pinnacle Airlines Corporation, based in Memphis. Pinnacle has about 6,000 employees around North America, 1,800 of them in Memphis. The company has 142 regional jets and 51 turboprops. Pinnacle said last month that it had reached an agreement with Continental for Colgan to buy an additional 15 turboprops to fly as Continental Express airplanes.

Earlier on Thursday, Continental posted a notice on its Web site that its operations would be affected by the winter storm on the East Coast, including in Buffalo and the New York City area.

The storm caused flights to Newark Liberty International Airport to be delayed by more than five hours on Thursday, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. That was unusual even for that airport, which routinely has some of the worst delays of any destination in the country.

Early on Friday, the F.A.A.’s Web site showed delays at Newark of three hours and 50 minutes.



Micheline Maynard contributed reporting from Detroit, and Michael D. Regan from Clarence Center, N.Y.


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9/11 widow killed in crash

James Pomerantz

120504 - Family Steering Committee for the 9/11 Commission member Beverly Eckert, who lost her husband in the 9/11 attack, at Ground Zero to announce a resolution to Congress to vote on the Federal Intelligence Reform Bill. Photo Credit: James Pomerantz

One of the victims of the Buffalo plane crash was the widow of a man who died in the September 11 attacks, according to reports.

Beverly Eckert was flying to the city for a celebration of what would have been her husband Sean Rooney’s 58th birthday.

Her sister Sue Bourque told the Buffalo News: “We know she was on that plane and now she’s with him.”

She said the family had not yet received official confirmation of her sister’s fate, but the reality was setting in.

Mr Rooney, who was 50 when he died, was working in the World Trade Centre in the New York when terrorists flew two planes into the twin towers.

He left a message on his wife’s voicemail saying: “There has been an explosion in World Trade One – that’s the other building.

“It looks like a plane struck it. It’s on fire at about the 90th floor. And it’s, it’s – it’s horrible. Bye.”

Ms Eckert became co-chairwoman of the group Voices of September 11th.


2 Responses to “49 Killed in Plane Crash Near Buffalo”

  1. Rj said



  2. […] 49 Killed in Plane Crash Near Buffalo « A Different Kind of Blog […]


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