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50 die as plane dives into NY home

A CONTINENTAL commuter plane coming in for a landing nose-dived into a house in suburban Buffalo, New York, sparking a fiery explosion that killed all 49 people aboard and a person in the home.

Witnesses heard the twin turboprop aircraft sputtering before it went down in light snow and fog around 10:20pm on Thursday about 8 kilometers from Buffalo Niagara International Airport. Continental Connection Flight 3407 from Newark, New Jersey, came in squarely through the roof of the house, its tail section visible through flames shooting at least 15 meters high.

"The whole sky was lit up orange," said Bob Dworak, who lives less than a mile away. "All the sudden, there was a big bang, and the house shook."

Two others in the house escaped with minor injuries.

The plane was carrying a four-member crew and an off-duty pilot. Among the 44 passengers killed was a woman whose husband died in the World Trade Center attacks of September 11, 2001.

Federal investigators were searching through the rubble for the "black boxes." National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Steve Chealander said the smoldering scene was still too hot to collect debris yesterday morning, but investigators were going after the flight data and cockpit voice recorders in the plane's largely intact tail.

Erie County Emergency Coordinator David Bissonette said it appeared the plane "dove directly on top of the house."

"It was a direct hit," Bissonette said. "It's remarkable that it only took one house. As devastating as that is, it could have wiped out the entire neighborhood."

No mayday call came from the pilot before the crash, according to a recording of air traffic control's radio messages captured by the Website

Neither the controller nor the pilot showed concern that anything was out of the ordinary as the airplane was asked to fly at 700 meters. Airport officials said the plane simply fell off the radar screen. At the time of the last radio contact, the controller said the plane was 4.8km from a radio beacon that is about 6km northeast of the airport.

The controller told the crew to turn the plane left to intercept a radio signal that would guide it to Runway 23. A pilot aboard the plane calmly repeated the instructions back correctly.

A minute later, the controller tried to contact the plane but heard no response. Eventually he told an unidentified listener to contact authorities on the ground in the Clarence area.

After the crash occurred, at least two pilots were heard on air traffic control messages saying they had been picking up ice on their wings. "We've been getting ice since 20 miles south of the airport," one said.

The National Transportation Safety Board sent a team of investigators to Buffalo. The Department of Homeland Security said there was no indication of terrorism.

The plane was carrying 2,300 kilograms of fuel and apparently exploded on impact. It was the first fatal crash of a commercial airliner in the US since August 27, 2006, when 49 people were killed after a Comair jetliner took off from a Lexington, Kentucky, runway that was too short.


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