Friday, February 13, 2009

Horror: Continental Plane Slams Into House Outside Buffalo, 49 Dead Including 9/11 Widow

(Image: Bill Wippert, Buffalo News)

This is just awful.
Forty-nine people died when a Continental Connection airplane crashed into a house in Clarence Center shortly after 10:15 p.m. Thursday, setting off a huge fire that could be seen miles away.

The dead included 44 passengers, four crew members and a person on the ground.

A nurse at Erie County Medical Center said the hospital's second shift had been told to stay late to treat survivors but was sent home before midnight.

"There were no souls to bring in and treat," she said.

Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority spokesman C. Douglas Hartmayer said there was little communication between the plane, Flight 3407, and the tower before the crash. Crew members aboard the flight from Newark Airport had not reported mechanical problems as they approached Buffalo.

The plane was a Bombardier Q400, a twin-engine turboprop with a passenger capacity of about 74.

"I was told by the tower the plane simply dropped off the radar screen," Hartmayer said.

The crash occurred at 6038 Long St., not far from the Clarence Center Fire Hall on Clarence Center Road. Police said one man was in the residence at the time of the crash.

About 12 other nearby homes were evacuated. Several of them sustained fire damage.

"We had a significant amount of fuel left in the aircraft," said Dave Bissonette, emergency co ordinator for the Town of Clarence. "It was a hazmat situation."

Three people were in the home at 6038 Long St. when the plane crashed.
In an eerie twist of fate, a 9/11 widow was among those killed.
The usually joyful meet-and-greet area of the Buffalo Niagara International Airport was a corridor of tears and sorrow early this morning as family and friends of those aboard Continental Express Flight 3407 filed in to get official word of their loved ones' fates.

For Sue Bourque, the wait for confirmation regarding her sister, Beverly Eckert, was all too familiar. Eckert is the widow of Sean Rooney, a Buffalo native who lost his life in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

Eckert was traveling to Buffalo for a weekend celebration of what would have been her husband's 58th birthday. She also had planned to take part in presentation of a scholarship award at Canisius High School that she established in honor of her late husband.

Bourque said that while the family had not yet received official confirmation of her sister's fate, the reality was settling in. "We know she was on that plane," Bourque said, "and now she's with him."

Eckert, Rooney's high school sweetheart, continued to live in their home in Stamford, Conn., after the terrorists' attacks of 2001. As co-chairwoman of Voices of Sept. 11, she pushed for a formal commission to investigate intelligence failures and for a proper memorial to the victims.

Family members and friends identified two other people believed to be on the plane as Ellyce Kausner, a graduate of Clarence High School and Canisius College who was studying law at Florida Coastal University in Jacksonville, and Maddy Loftus, a Buffalo State College graduate who lives in New Jersey.
Our prayers are with the families and loved ones of the victims.

More images here. Video here.

All along the northeast there were very strong winds Thursday but reports are the winds gusts were about 15 mph at the time of the crash. Clarence is probably about 10 miles outside of the Buffalo Airport, located in Cheektowaga.

Update: Dan Riehl has more.

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