Signs point to weather, ice as possible factors in deadly plane crash

Posted by Colby Rogers - email

CLARENCE, N.Y. (AP) - Investigators are trying to determine what caused Continental Connection Flight 3407 to nose-dive into a suburban Buffalo house last night. But there are signs that weather might have been a factor.

Air traffic control suddenly lost contact with Continental flight 3407 on approach to the buffalo airport. The flight originated in Newark, NJ and pilots on board gave no warning of any trouble.

Authorities say it appears the twin turbo prop nose-dived into a suburban Buffalo home and exploded on impact.

"It is remarkable that it only took out one house," said Erie County Emergency Coordinator David Bissonette. "It could have easily taken out the whole neighborhood."

All 49 passengers and crew onboard died and investigators say a man inside the home was killed.  A mother and daughter managed to escape the home.

Witnesses say the plane, which was loaded with 5800 pounds of fuel, came out of nowhere and jolted the neighborhood.

"The explosion shook our house and you could hear the flames crackling when you got outside," one witness said. "Flames were 20 to 30 feet high"."

The continental flight, operated by Manassas-based Colgan Air crashed five miles from Buffalo-Niagra Airport on a night when snow, fog, wind and upper level ice concerns caused delays.

There was no mayday call from the pilot before the crash. But afterward, at least two pilots reported they had been picking up ice on their wings.

One former federal aviation official says the plane's nearly vertical drop suggests a sudden loss of control. William Voss, who's now president of the Flight Safety Foundation, says that suggests icing or a mechanical failure might have been the cause.

Ice on the wings can alter aerodynamics and interfere with lift and handling.

Investigators have recovered the black box devices from the crash site and are now trying to piece together more information about what caused the plane to go down.

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