Plane crashes into suburban Buffalo-area home; 49 killed

A huge fire burns from the wreckage of Continental Airlines Flight 3407 near Buffalo, New York.
A Continental Airlines plane crashed into a home near Buffalo, New York, late Thursday, killing 44 passengers and four crew members on board, according to New York State police.

Authorities also said one person on the ground was killed. It is not yet known whether that person was in the home at the time of the crash. Continental Connection Flight 3407, operated by Colgan Air, was en route from Newark, New Jersey, when it went down, said Bill Peat with New York State Emergency Management in Albany. The crash occurred about seven miles from Buffalo Niagara International Airport. “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,” a statement from the airline said. The plane crashed about 10:20 p.m., hitting a Clarence Center, New York, home. Watch crash video from CNN affiliate WGRZ » Authorities said the plane went down near a local fire hall, so firefighters were quick to respond to the accident scene. Area resident Keith Burtis said he was driving to the store about a mile from the crash site when he heard the plane go down. “It was a high-pitched sound,” Burtis said. “It felt like a mini-earthquake.” Watch officials on the scene: ‘This is not a rescue mission’ » Shortly after the crash, Burtis said he saw a steady stream of fire trucks rush by him as smoke billowed into the sky. Other witnesses told CNN they saw the plane nose-dive toward the ground. Twelve residents were evacuated from the area. “I felt the impact … sounded like a large explosion,” said Brendan Biddlecon, who told CNN he lives two blocks from where the plane crashed. Biddlecon ran out his home and to within a couple hundred yards of the crash. The smoke was thick and acrid, and the heat was intense, he said. Are you on the scene Let us know at iReport The Erie County Medical Examiner’s Office established a command post at the scene and had investigators there, a statement from the office said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the crew, the passengers and our residents on Long Street,” said Clarence Supervisor Scott Blylewski. “This is clearly a tragedy,” said Dave Bissonette, the town’s natural disaster services coordinator. Watch what iReporter captured on film A command post has been set up at the scene by the Erie County Medical Examiner’s office and has investigators and doctors on the scene. Continental Airlines confirmed that the Bombardier Dash 8 Q400, a 74-seat turboprop, was operating between Newark Liberty International Airport and Buffalo. Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) permanently grounded its fleet of Dash 8s after three crash landings during a two-month period in 2007 that were blamed on the aircraft’s landing gear. “Confidence in the Q400 has diminished considerably and our customers are becoming increasingly doubtful about flying in this type of aircraft,” Mats Jansson, president and CEO of SAS, said at the time. “I have decided to immediately remove Dash 8 Q400 aircraft from service.” The National Transportation Safety Board said early Friday that was preparing a “go team” to head to Buffalo to investigate the crash. There was a wintry mix at the time of the crash, officials said. Watch more on the plane crash » Officials said relatives of passengers aboard the flight should call 1-800-621-3263 for information. At this time, officials said they are not concerned about a hazardous materials situation on the ground. Watch the brother of one the passengers speak » Rep. Chris Lee, R-New York, issued a statement: “We are deeply shocked and saddened by the tragic accident that occurred tonight in Clarence. Our focus right now is on supporting the first responders on the ground and their efforts to ensure the health and safety of people in the area. “I will do my best to provide helpful information as we learn more. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims’ families at this difficult hour.”