Plane crashes in upstate New York, 50 dead (Roundup)

February 14th, 2009 - 1:09 am ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaNew York, Feb 13 (DPA) A commercial airliner crashed on a house and burst into flames late Thursday outside Buffalo, New York, killing at least 50 people.
The dead included 49 people on Continental Connection Flight 3407 and one person on the ground, officials said Friday. The fire was so intense that investigators were unable to approach the crash site early Friday morning. They subsequently managed to recover the cockpit voice recorders from the tail of the aircraft.

The crash took place at 10.17 p.m. Thursday (US time) in the village of Clarence Center, about 10 km from the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. The 74-seat Bombardier operated by Colgan Air was flying in from Newark, New Jersey.

“Our hearts go out to the families and friends who lost loved ones,” US President Barack Obama said in a statement. “We pray for all those who have been touched by this terrible tragedy to find peace and comfort in the hard days ahead.”

Television footage from the spot in western New York state showed the rear fuselage and wing section jutting up from the ground at the crash site. Witnesses said they heard the engine making “strange noises” and that the plane apparently went straight down.

At the time of the accident, rain and sleet were prevailing in the area.

Investigators said Friday that they had not ruled out any possible causes. “We don’t have any factual information other than that the airplane went down and it hit a house. We’re going to be sifting through the evidence, looking for everything,” said Steve Chealander from the National Transportation Safety Board.

The crash site “contained a lot of carnage”, he said.

Officials still hadn’t released names of the victims, but passengers were being identified by their relatives. Beverly Eckert, 54, who lost her husband in the Sep 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York, was among those killed.

“We know that she was on that plane,” Sue Bourque, Eckert’s sister, said Friday. Bourque had been waiting at Buffalo airport to pick her sister up when the plane crashed some 10 km away.

“And now she is with him,” she added, referring to Eckert’s husband. Eckert was travelling to Buffalo to mark what would have been her husband’s 58th birthday, her sister said.

Eckert was co-chairwoman of Voices of Sep 11, a group pushing for a formal commission to investigate intelligence failures before the terrorist attacks.

Obama described Eckert as “a tireless advocate for the families whose lives were changed” by the attacks. He called her an “inspiration to me and so many others”.

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