Update: Buffalo Plane Crash
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
50 people are dead after a commuter plane crashed near Buffalo, New York last night. President Obama said this at the White House today.
President BARACK OBAMA: Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends who lost loved ones, and as always our thanks go out to the brave first responders who arrived immediately to try and save lives, and who are still on the scene keeping people safe. Tragic events such as these remind us of the fragility of life and the value of every single day.
BRAND: The Continental airplane crashed into a house in a suburban neighborhood, killing everyone on board and one person in that home. The plane exploded on impact; it sent up a huge blaze that engulfed the crash site. For the latest, we're with Mark Scott. He's news director at WBFO in Buffalo. And Mark, what's happening now? Is that fire under control?
Mr. MARK SCOTT (News Director, WBFO): The fire is under control, and really has been since early this morning. The fireball we saw when the plane initially crashed was quickly extinguished, but there are hot spots. There was a problem with a ruptured natural gas line, so the site is really still too hot for investigators to start their probe. However, they were trying to retrieve the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder. There are unconfirmed reports that those devices have been found and are now in the custody of the NTSB, but we haven't been able to confirm that.
BRAND: And I understand the plane was flying in bad weather. Do we have any idea at all what caused this crash?
Mr. SCOTT: Not yet. NTSB spokesman Steve Chealander refused to do any speculating about this at a briefing this morning; in fact, when a reporter asked him to comment on the way the plane hit the house, he said it's too early to even say anything about that.
Mr. STEVEN CHEALANDER (Spokesman, National Transportation Safety Board): We're just trying to gather facts, we're trying to get witness accounts. We're trying to look at ATC tapes, to try to figure out all of that, and we will maybe have some of that answer for you in the subsequent days. Right now it's too early to tell.
(SOUNDBITE OF REPORTERS AT PRESS CONFERENCE)
Mr. SCOTT: Now, the ATC stands for air traffic control tapes. Those tapes do show controllers were asking pilots of other flights if they were experiencing icing problems, but again, no-one in authority is even venturing a guess as to why this plane went down. I will mention that it was snowing at the time of the accident.
BRAND: And one of the people on board was a woman named Beverly Eckert. She was a 9/11 widow and an activist. She had just met with President Obama, I understand, last week at the White House. What can you tell us about her?
Mr. SCOTT: Well, her husband - they were from Buffalo, and her husband was a businessman working in the World Trade Center on 9/11, and he was killed in the terrorist attack. And as you say, she became very much a spokeswoman for the victims. She was heading to Buffalo to take part in a 58th birthday celebration for her late husband. He was apparently going to be honored with a scholarship at Canisius High School here over the weekend. She was coming to take part in that, a very happy occasion, and it's tragic the way she died when you consider what happened to her husband 9 years ago.
BRAND: Absolutely. Such a, such a sad story. Well, two occupants of that house, though, they managed to get out, right?
Mr. SCOTT: Yes, they did. 57-year-old Karen Wielinski and her 22-year-old daughter Jill, they were somehow able to get out of that inferno. And their injuries were not life-threatening. They were taken to a nearby hospital and they were treated and released.
BRAND: Mark Scott, news director at WBFO in Buffalo, New York, talking about the Continental Airlines crash that killed all people on board, one person on the ground. Mark, thank you.
Mr. SCOTT: Thank you.
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