50 killed in crash as plane hits Buffalo house

Smoke rises from the tail section of the Continental turboprop at the crash site near Buffalo on Friday.
A Continental Airlines plane crashed into a house near Buffalo, New York, late Thursday, killing all 49 people aboard and a person in the home, authorities said.

“This is easily the saddest day in the history of our airline,” said Philip Trenary, CEO of Colgan Air, which operated the flight for Continental. Continental Connection Flight 3407, a Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 74-seat turboprop, was en route from Newark, New Jersey, to Buffalo when it went down at around 10:20 p.m. ET, about seven miles from Buffalo Niagara International Airport. A National Transportation Safety Board official said Friday morning the plane’s voice and cockpit data recorders had been recovered from the wreckage and were being taken to Washington, D.C., for analysis. Firefighters finally subdued a blaze at the crash site late Friday morning, more than 12 hours after the crash. Officials blamed a natural gas leak for the fire’s persistence. Dave Bissonette, Clarence Center’s natural disaster services coordinator, said it was “clearly a direct hit” on the house. See what’s left of the plane » Four people were injured at the crash site, including a mother and daughter inside the house that was hit. They suffered minor injuries and were treated and released from a Williamsville hospital, a spokeswoman said. Two firefighters also were brought in for treatment of smoke inhalation and minor injuries. iReport.com: Flames rise from crash site

A Colgan Air spokesperson identified the crew as pilot Capt. Marvin Renslow, first officer Rebecca Shaw and flight attendants Matilda Quintero and Donna Prisco. An off-duty pilot, Capt. Joseph Zuffoletto, was also aboard. CNN has listened to a tape of communications between air traffic control and the flight crew. The first officer was calm. The plane was cleared for approach. About two minutes later, the air traffic controller came back, his voice full of stress. Radar contact was lost. The question goes out: Can other planes see anything No one responds. The controller says they might have a plane down. The pilot’s last comment was “Colgan Flight 3407.” There were no sounds of distress. It was not clear whether the mix of sleet and snow in the area played any role in the crash of Flight 3407. Watch what weather was like when disaster happened »

Airline information
Continental Airlines’ statements

Relatives helpline 800-621-3263 

Other planes continued to arrive and land safely at Buffalo about the time the flight went down. Delta Flight 1998, an MD-88 jet, landed at 10:17 p.m. The Delta crew did not see Flight 3407. The Delta flight reported rime icing, a condition in which ice quickly builds up on the leading edge of the wings. A US Airways flight also reported icing. Watch pilot explain how ice affects plane wings » Authorities said the plane went down near a fire hall, so firefighters were quick to respond to the crash site. At least nine volunteer fire departments responded. iReport.com: Are you there Let us know Witness Tony Tatro was on his way home from the gym when the plane flew about 75 feet above him. The craft’s nose was lower than usual and and the left wing was tilted, he told CNN. “The engines didn’t sound typical, didn’t sound normal,” he said. Watch witness describe how plane went down » The plane was loud as it came in, as if for a takeoff rather than for a landing, said David Luce, who lives 300 feet from the crash site. “The engines sounded like they were revving at very high speed, an unnatural sound,” Luce said. “… Then the engine cut out — stopped. And within a couple of seconds, there was this tremendous explosion.

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“It was an enormous explosion. It sounded like it hit frankly right in our backyard. … The house shook, the windows shook, the ground shook,” he said. “It was a real blast.” Other witnesses told CNN they saw the plane nose-dive toward the ground. Twelve people were evacuated from scene. Law enforcement officials are asking people not to go to the crash site in fear they may hinder the investigation. “I felt the impact … sounded like a large explosion,” said Brendan Biddlecom, who told CNN he lives two blocks from where the plane crashed. Watch report from witness: “All I saw was flames” » Biddlecom ran out of his home to within a couple hundred yards of the crash. The smoke was thick and acrid, and the heat was intense, he said. Chris Kausner, who had a sister on the flight, rushed to the Clarence Municipal Center, where he waited for information after emergency teams turned him back from the scene. “My parents are on vacation in Florida and I had to call down there and tell my father what was going on,” he told CNN affiliate WIVB-TV. When asked how his parents were handling the news, a shaken Kausner responded “To tell you the truth, I heard my mother make a sound that I have never heard before.” Watch as Kausner talks about telling his mother about the crash » The Erie County Medical Examiner’s Office established a command post at the scene and had investigators there, a statement from the office said. Officials said relatives of passengers aboard the flight should call 800-621-3263 for information. Watch what iReporter captured on film Thursday’s incident is the first fatal crash of a commercial airliner in the United States since August 2006 when Comair Flight 5191 crashed when it attempted to take off from the wrong runway.