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Plane crash in NY state kills 50

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Neighbours describe the scene of the crash

Fifty people have died after a US passenger plane crashed into a house in Buffalo, New York state.

The Continental Connection flight 3407 was five minutes from Buffalo airport when it came down at 2210 (0310 GMT).

Officials said there were no survivors from the 45 passengers and four crew on board the flight from Newark. One person on the ground also died.

It is not clear what caused the crash. There was reported to be light snow and fog at the time.

TV footage showed a house engulfed in flames and the tail of the plane sticking out of the ground.

Map of Buffalo
Officials said surrounding homes suffered only superficial damage. Twelve other homes were evacuated around the crash site in Clarence Center, a suburb of Buffalo.

State police spokeswoman Rebecca Gibbons said that of those on board, "there were no survivors".

The number of passengers is now thought to have numbered 45, after it was revealed that an off-duty pilot was also on board.

Erie County Executive Chris Collins said there were three people in the house that was hit.

One died and the other two - believed to be a woman and child - managed to escape with apparently minor injuries, he said.

President Barack Obama said he and his wife Michelle were "deeply saddened" by the news.

"Our hearts go out to the families and friends of loved ones," he said, thanking the "brave first responders" who tried to save lives and make the area safe.

'Dropped off radar'

The twin-prop Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 aircraft, operated by Colgan Air for Continental Airlines, was flying from Newark airport in New Jersey to Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

US media say a recording of Buffalo's air traffic control before the crash showed no concerns by either the controller or the pilot.

However, a minute later, the controller was unable to contact flight 3407 and asked other planes in the area if they could spot it.

It sounded quite loud, and then the sound stopped. Then one or two seconds later, there was a thunderous explosion
Eyewitness David Luce

One airport official said he had been told "the plane simply dropped off the radar screen".

Eyewitnesses spoke of hearing unusual sounds coming from the plane before it crashed.

"It sounded quite loud, and then the sound stopped," David Luce, who lives 150 yards (137m) from the crash site, told the Buffalo News.

"Then one or two seconds later, there was a thunderous explosion. I thought something hit our house. It shook our whole house."

He described going to the scene of the crash and seeing flames up to 50ft (15m) high.

"The house was already flattened. There was no house, just a pile of rubbish and still burning," he said.

Dave Bissonette, emergency control director in Clarence, described the crash as a "catastrophic event".

"It's remarkable that it only took one house," he added.

"As devastating as that was, it could have easily wiped out that entire neighbourhood.

"The fuselage of the plane lies directly on the footprint of the house. It basically dove right into the top of the house from my perspective, and again I am no expert on recreations, but it landed on the house," he said.

Investigation

Relatives of the victims have been offered counselling and support as they wait for news.

One of those believed to be on board the plane was Beverly Eckert, widow of Sean Rooney who was killed in the 9/11 attacks on New York.

BOMBARDIER DASH 8 AIRCRAFT
A twin-prop Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 aircraft, identical to the one that crashed
The Canadian-made Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 was delivered new last year
Q400 is newest member of the Dash 8 family
Twin-engine turboprop, mainly for short-haul flights
First flown in 1998, entered commercial service in 2000

Her sister Sue Bourque told the Buffalo News that Ms Eckert had been travelling home to mark what would have been her husband's 58th birthday.

"We know she was on that plane," she told the newspaper, although she had not received official confirmation, "and now she's with him."

Chris Kausner, whose sister is believed to have been on the plane, was forced to break the news to his mother, holidaying in Florida.

"I heard my mother make a noise on the phone that I never heard her make before," he told reporters.

Officials say the fire has been brought under control and the area has been sealed off.

An investigation into the accident is expected to begin at midday local time on Friday, when the site has cooled down enough.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are going to the scene.

Continental Airlines expressed profound sadness over the crash and said it was working closely with Colgan Air to "provide as much support as possible for all concerned".



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SEE ALSO
'The plane didn't sound normal'
13 Feb 09 |  Americas
In pictures: Buffalo plane crash
13 Feb 09 |  In Pictures
Air disasters timeline
13 Feb 09 |  Special Reports

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