Buffalo Plane Crash Update

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the scene of a commuter plane crash near Buffalo, N.Y. Thursday night's crash killed 49 people on the plane and one person on the ground.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Let's find out more now about last night's commuter plane crash. What we know is that a Continental Airlines prop plane took off from Newark, New Jersey, flew to upstate New York, and then crashed near Buffalo with all 48 people on board reported killed. Early this morning authorities near Buffalo, New York, offered more information and Eileen Buckley at member station WBFO was listening. And what happened, according to authorities?

EILEEN BUCKLEY: Well, officials are telling us right now that there were no reported problems from that plane before it crashed into a home in the town of Clarence, New York, which is outside Buffalo. A spokesman from the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, which operates the Buffalo airport, says the plane simply dropped off the radar screen.

Now, some witnesses say they heard a loud bang, and they saw the red skies light up from the fire that could be seen for miles from the crash site. The crash scene right now is being described as still very hot. And they say it could be six to eight hours before they're able to get inside the site to begin investigation.

Now, the town here has a limited state of emergency declared and so far, as you might know, any release of a passenger list has not occurred, at least as of yet, until all the family is notified. The scene, again, has been described as under lock and key. They are really stressing and asking the public, please don't try to go to the scene. And as far as the debris path, hopefully they will be able to get a better handle on that.

INSKEEP: Well, when you talk about the scene being quite hot, there are pictures that are available on Web sites and on various television networks. You see a house silhouetted by flames. You see a light of burning, a lot of flames going on there.

BUCKLEY: That's right. What we learned was there was about 5,000 pounds of fuel in this aircraft. And they were able to contain what obviously had burned off. But now, there's still some burn off going and there was, you know, quite a bit of smoke billowing from it. And some say they could see, you know, the fire for miles from the crash site.

The fuselage actually left what they are describing as a footprint on the house. They say it dove and landed on top of the house. It did kill one person inside that home. Two other people, we are told, were inside that home, reported to be a mother and daughter. Now, they escaped with minor injuries. They were taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. Twelve homes nearby were also evacuated, of course, because of such an explosive situation with the fuel and the crash combined.

INSKEEP: Amazing to think that a plane could fall on a house and that anyone could get alive. Now, we're talking with Eileen Buckley of member station WBFO about last night's commuter plane crash. We should mention, Eileen, I guess that any conclusions about what caused this crash are surely premature. It usually takes a while. But this is a time when investigators gather evidence. And one thing they'll ask is, what was the weather like?

BUCKLEY: Well, of course, Steve, I'm sure that they will. And so far, we've asked that here this evening and they say they don't know. They simply don't know at this time if weather conditions had any factor. There were some very, very sketchy reports coming from some outlets, talking about possible ice on the wings. Again, that has not been confirmed. And they don't know, again, if those conditions were any factor.

I can tell you that we had quite a weather mix over the last day and a half. We've had anywhere from rain to wet snow to freezing rain. And the temperatures were dropping Thursday evening. And we had that wintry mix, which is so familiar here in our Buffalo and western New York region.

INSKEEP: Eileen, thanks very much.

BUCKLEY: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: Eileen Buckley is a reporter from member station WBFO in Buffalo. Outside Buffalo last night, a commuter plane crashed with 48 people on board. It's believed all were killed, along with one person on the ground.

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