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 said one person in the Clarence Center, New York, home was also killed. 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, said a spokeswoman at Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital in Williamsville. Two firefighters also were brought in for treatment of smoke inhalation and minor injuries. Continental Connection Flight 3407, a Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 74-seat turboprop, operated by Colgan Air, was en route from Newark, New Jersey, to Buffalo when it went down at around 10:20 p.m. ET. The crash occurred about seven miles from Buffalo Niagara International Airport. Dave Bissonette, Clarence Center’s natural disaster services coordinator, said it was “clearly a direct hit” on the house. “The only recognizable piece of the plane left is the tail,” Bissonette said. The ferocity of the fire was such that officials don’t expect the crash site to be safe for investigators until about noon Friday, nearly 14 hours after the crash. iReport.com: Flames rise from crash site CNN has listened to a tape of communications between air traffic control and the flight crew. The first officer had no sign of stress in her voice. The plane was cleared for approach. About two minutes later, the air traffic controller came back, with stress in his voice. 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. Watch video from CNN affiliate WGRZ » It was not clear whether the mix of sleet and snow in the area played any role in the crash of Flight 3407. 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 approximately 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. Authorities said the plane went down near a local fire hall, so firefighters were quick to respond to the crash site. At least nine volunteer fire departments responded to the scene. iReport.com: Are you there Let us know 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.
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According to CNN affiliate WGRZ-TV in Buffalo, one of the crash victims, Beverly Eckert, was the widow of 9/11 terror attack victim Sean Rooney, a Buffalo native. Eckert was traveling to Buffalo for a weekend celebration of what would have been her husband’s 58th birthday. She also had planned to take part in presentation of a scholarship award at Canisius High School that she established in honor of her late husband, the Buffalo News newspaper reported. Twelve residents were evacuated from the area of the plane crash. 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 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. Chris Kausner, who had a sister on the flight, rushed to the Clarence Municipal Center, where he waited for additional 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 victim’s brother discuss delivering the tragic news to his mother » 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 A statement from the airline said: “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 National Transportation Safety Board said early Friday that was preparing a “go team” to head to Buffalo to investigate the crash. According to the National Weather Service weather observation for Buffalo, there was light snow, fog and mist shortly before 10 p.m. Flight 3407 was originally scheduled to depart at 7:45 p.m., but it was delayed. Watch more on the plane crash » “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the crew, the passengers and our residents on Long Street,” said Clarence Supervisor Scott Blylewski. 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.