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AMERICAN MORNING

Buffalo, New York Plane Crash

Aired February 13, 2009 - 03:56   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN HOST: A special edition of AMERICAN MORNING is getting underway now. And we are going to be with you all morning as we try to find out more details about this tragedy.

And as Anderson pointed out, you know, we started the week with such great news, in terms of aviation, commercial aviation, when the Miracle on the Hudson, the captain who was able to land that huge jet, right on the waters of the Hudson. And now, at the end of the week we hear of this tragedy. A Cont Air flight, a commuter plane, that was capable of carrying about 74, 75 people. But it looks like 48 people were onboard and they do not think anybody survived this crash.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN HOST: Yes, it was supposed to be just a routine flight from Newark airport, to up there, to Buffalo, aboard this aircraft, which as Anderson pointed out and our aviation experts have pointed out, is Bombardier's, the way they pronounce it up in Canada, where it is built. It's a De Havilland Dash 8. It's a real workhorse commuter aircraft.

It is designed for bad weather. To land in conditions like this should not have been a problem. It has got a fairly robust deicing system; a pneumatic system, a boots that inflate on the wings to break off any ice that might form on the leading edge of the wing. It's got an electric deicing system on the propellers as well.

So it's an aircraft that is designed to handle extreme conditions, not to mention the conditions that were there in Buffalo, which were supposedly light snow, a little bit of sleet, maybe a little bit of freezing rain here. We talked about this idea of rime ice building up on the wings.

And there it looks like the press conference just about to get underway here. And we'll just continue with this for a second. So the aircraft should not have had a problem in weather like that. So it will be, you know, left up to, you know, cockpit voice recordings, black box examination to see exactly what might have gone wrong with the aircraft.

And let's listen in to the press conference now.

DAVE BISSONETTE, CLARENCE EMERGENCY CONTROL DIRECTOR: Talk to me. One, two. One two, one two. But that's good. OK. Fine.

All right, let me just start off by giving you my thoughts.

My name is Dave Bissonette.

I'm the emergency coordinator for the town of Clarence.

Thank you for coming out here to get the facts. I've assembled what I think is a pretty accurate group here that will answer some questions.

I'm going to be very specific about the time and the limits these questions will be at this point. There's a lot of investigation in progress, as you can expect. It's been a long night.

I'll start off by updating everybody on the conditions on the ground out there.

We still have about a two block area of the Village of Clarence Centre or the hamlet of Clarence Centre off limits and secured. State police have put up a perimeter there that's very secure. We do not want the public to come down and see what's happened.

We need time to get the fires under control. It's still a very hot scene. It will be at least six to eight hours before we can lock that site and start the investigation for a root cause.

With me, the rest of the panel here. I'm going to defer now to County Executive Chris Collins, who will elaborate on some of the issues.

CHRIS COLLINS, ERIE COUNTY EXECUTIVE: Thank you.

I'm Chris Collins, the Erie County executive. And, again, I'd like to start by saying our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those affected.

The -- this is a coordinated effort between the county, the town, the FBI, federal agencies and the State of New York. We have declared a limit state of emergency. And I would reiterate, we do not want people coming down here to Clarence Centre. And so we would ask them to respect that and stay away.

The NTSB will be on the ground at 6:00 a.m. This morning with their investigators. The site right now is too hot for anyone to start an investigation. We expect by noon tomorrow the investigation will then occur.

We're moving in 72 hour blocks of time. At 6:00 a.m. we are moving our incident command center to the county fire control tower, Broadway, in Cheektowaga, where we will be coordinating the efforts with a local incident command here in Clarence at the town hall.

So this is a coordinated effort with all the agencies. The county will be taking the lead on this. But we have state and federal, as well as town assistance. The sheriff, the state police. So it's an indication of -- of the county being prepared for such an emergency and it is going off as expected, as we now move into the next phase of this operation, pretty much starting at 6:00 a.m.

So I suppose at this point, if there are specific questions, if you could keep them brief. Mort Zayeed (ph)?

QUESTION: What do you know about the release of a manifest?

COLLINS: I think out of respect for the families -- we do have the manifest, but we have to make sure all the families are notified before any individual names come forward. So that would be forthcoming, but we're going to have to first make sure everyone has been notified.

QUESTION: Chris, can you talk about how many people that were not on the plane were actually injured or perished -- that were not on the plane?

COLLINS: Well, we do know there were 48 on the plane -- 44 passengers and four crew. Unfortunately, there was a town resident in the one home that perished and two individuals did -- were able to escape that home and with very minor injuries went to ECMC.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: They were in the home when the plane crashed into it?

COLLINS: Yes.

QUESTION: And how -- how did they escape?

What did they say about that?

COLLINS: That -- part of that investigation will have to occur after the fact. But fortunately there were -- there were two people that survived that.

QUESTION: Is this a woman and her little child?

COLLINS: That's my understanding. But...

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Is anyone at Millard Fillmore right now?

(CROSSTALK)

COLLINS: Excuse me?

QUESTION: Is anyone at Millard Fillmore (INAUDIBLE)?

COLLINS: I am not sure whether they went to ECMC or Millard Fillmore. We know they were taken care of and went to a hospital.

QUESTION: Do you know the extent of their injuries?

COLLINS: Very minor.

QUESTION: Any reports of (INAUDIBLE) on board. I know you don't want to go into details, but... COLLINS: Again...

(CROSSTALK)

COLLINS: The manifest is something that we're not at liberty to release right now, so, no. We do not have any information to put forth at the same time.

QUESTION: Chris, what can you tell us about was this plane -- did it not report trouble (INAUDIBLE)?

COLLINS: To the best of our knowledge, it did not. It was coming in for a landing and the control tower just noted -- it states that they lost contact with the plane. But, again, part of the investigation that will be -- will be forthcoming will analyze that in more detail.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: There was talk about other planes that followed this plane in, that landed, were developing some ice on their wings.

Do you have any indication that that might have (INAUDIBLE)?

COLLINS: At this point...

(CROSSTALK)

COLLINS: At this point there's no -- no information whatsoever as to what the cause would be. Again, that will be the investigation that will begin tomorrow.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) in tomorrow at about 6:00 a.m.

Any word on when the bodies (INAUDIBLE)?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Later today.

COLLINS: That will be later today, probably starting right at noon.

QUESTION: What about victims and their families?

What are you telling them?

Where are they right now...

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE).

COLLINS: Currently, the families are gathered at the Cheektowaga Senior Center. We have chaplains. We have counselors there right now. We have representatives from the airlines there. It's obviously a very difficult time for the families.

I certainly would hope everyone would respect their privacy at this critical point in time.

But they are being dealt with and we're doing everything we can to support them in their time of need.

QUESTION: What -- what can you do (INAUDIBLE)?

COLLINS: Well...

(CROSSTALK)

COLLINS: Well, right now I think we need to respect their moment of grief and certainly this community, better than any in the country, will come together, as we have done time and time again to support our fellow citizens. This is a very close-knit community and I can assure all the families that all of us will do whatever it takes to go through this period of grief and whatever they need will be provided, you know, starting right now with counselors to get them through this very difficult period.

QUESTION: Chris, you keep saying six (INAUDIBLE).

Do you mean six this morning?

COLLINS: In two hours.

QUESTION: Yes. OK.

Dave, can you tell us a little bit about the emergency response (INAUDIBLE)?

BISSONETTE: Thank you for asking that. I have to first say my hats are off to every first responder in Erie County. The fire departments locally here performed outstandingly. They did a professional job. There were given a task that was insurmountable and really did a first class job of trying to bring it under control.

We are left with a very -- a very detailed driven process, with state and federal authorities here on site in the next few days. This is not going to be a short-term plan.

We did have one minor injury -- a firefighter with a foot injury. But overall, without incident the fire service -- the EMS folks did just an outstanding job. I can't say enough about them.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) to preserve the scene right now?

BISSONETTE: The...

QUESTION: What is the conditions of the scene right now?

BISSONETTE: The scene right now, as I said before, is under lock and key, so to speak. The state police have put a perimeter around there that does not provide any access to the public -- limited firefighters that are cooling down the actual scene. And that's the way it will be for the foreseeable future.

QUESTION: Do you worry that the weather could damper, you know, evidence keeping at the scene?

BISSONETTE: No. This is Buffalo.

(CROSSTALK)

BISSONETTE: We've learned that.

QUESTION: Can you tell us about the debris field?

BISSONETTE: Yes?

QUESTION: I mean, in terms of the wreckage, I mean is this more or less concentrated in an impact zone or are there pieces of wreckage that are scattered in the debris around this (INAUDIBLE)?

BISSONETTE: Yes. A great question. Unfortunately, because this is a -- through the course of the night, it's very difficult to track that and plot that out at this point in time, I think the investigation will show a lot more insight as to the approach and the distribution of the debris.

The infrastructure -- that one house was completely destroyed. There was some superficial damage to the houses around that will suggest, certainly, a very particular type of accident, I'm sure.

QUESTION: What about...

(CROSSTALK)

BISSONETTE: I'm not an expert on that.

QUESTION: ...concerns?

BISSONETTE: We did have some HAZMAT issues with the remaining fuel on the -- on the plane. We believe that a large portion of that has burned off in the heat of the fire. We do have DEC on location, as well as the HAZMAT teams on stand by should we believe we need to do more work there.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ...anything about this plane's flight path, because there's a witness report who has (INAUDIBLE)...

BISSONETTE: I couldn't comment...

(CROSSTALK)

BISSONETTE: I could not comment on that.

If one of the other panel members here would like to add to that?

Do you have any comment at this time? LAURIE BENNETT, SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE WITH BUFFALO FBI: You could say that the FBI, along with the New York State Police, NTSB, when they arrive in the a.m. as well as the Erie County sheriff's office and all the other local state and county law enforcement officials will be working hand in hand. In fact, as the investigation unfolds, we ask that anyone that was a witness, anyone from the public that may have information to please be in contact with us.

But at this point, I cannot discuss really any matters of the -- the flight pattern without -- until NTSB gives something down and works with us.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE)?

BENNETT: Not at this -- not at this time. I think what we have a plan. If individuals need access to their house or maybe medicine or some other things, that we will set up with the New York State Police (INAUDIBLE) those individuals can be escorted in and allowed to do that.

But at this time, we cannot allow anybody back into their homes due to that still may be hazardous site.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The control of the scene will pass from the fire to the law enforcement through the FBI back to the local law enforcement and then finally back to the town -- back to the fire. So the final release of the scene will be from -- by the town.

(CROSSTALK)

BENNETT: Please go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've set up a perimeter in the local area, in the Town of Clarence, from Goodrich Road is closed between County Road and Raw Road (ph). And that will remain so for -- for quite some time. Unknown when we will release that. And Clarence Center Road will be closed from Strickler Road to Townsend Road.

And we ask that no one come to the area and travel in the area without any reason. I mean this is going to take some time to investigate this incident. And these roads will be closed for quite some time. And we don't need any unnecessary travel to, you know, inhibit the investigation.

QUESTION: Can you tell us about the scene itself?

I mean did the plane -- where did the plane crash into the house?

Is it in the back yard there or is the majority of it (INAUDIBLE)?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's...

BISSONETTE: I'll take that one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. BISSONETTE: The -- the fuselage of the plane lies directly on the footprint of the house. It basically dove right into the top of the house from -- from my perspective. And, again, I am no expert on recreations, but it -- it landed on the house. Clearly a direct hit.

(CROSSTALK)

BISSONETTE: I'm sorry, the gentleman in the back?

QUESTION: The homes are relatively close together.

BISSONETTE: Yes.

QUESTION: And the fact that it only hit the one home, I mean how surreal or I mean remarkable is it that it was only one home, albeit one, but...

BISSONETTE: I think you pretty much summed it up right there. It's remarkable that it only took one house, as devastating as that was. It could have easily wiped out that entire neighborhood on a -- on a scraping run type of thing.

(CROSSTALK)

BISSONETTE: A question?

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) at the scene, would that be accurate?

BISSONETTE: No. No. There's no...

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: How soon was (INAUDIBLE) the plane crashing into a house did you realize that this was not a single engine plane or a small plane?

BISSONETTE: Well, the devastation the fire department -- the Clarence Center Fire Department, first on location there. It was quite clear to them that this was a catastrophic event. This was not your average house fire or unforeseen type accident. This was a -- a downed aircraft. It was very clear.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) point, then, this would suggest a pretty steep trajectory into the house?

BISSONETTE: That's possible, yes. Again, I am not an investigator. I can only tell you what I see there. And it -- it did not, you know, take off down the entire street. It involved one structure.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ...firefighters here, the ones in the Clarence Centre fire (INAUDIBLE), what did they hear? Did they hear the (INAUDIBLE)?

Did they hear?

BISSONETTE: I -- I couldn't tell you that. I know -- I know that I heard a loud bang -- a loud explosion type sound. And I live about a mile away.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ...at this point, but, you know, maybe you've had your evidence recovery people in in terms of a team.

Have they been able to find anything yet that they will turning over to the NTSB?

Are you able to say (INAUDIBLE) wreckage -- and, obviously, everybody wants to know where the black box is.

Is there any indication that may -- that leads to (INAUDIBLE) located or a...

BENNETT: No. At this time, it is still under the control of the emergency services because of the actual -- we don't want any personnel that are in the recovery effort to suffer any injuries. And I think certainly fire can speak more to that. But at this time, we don't have personnel that are collecting evidence. And, again, when NTSB arrives in the morning, we'll coordinate our efforts to make sure we're all working together, along with our local partners.

But at this time, the scene is still under the control of the emergency management and will be until they clear it and tell us to (INAUDIBLE) that we can go in and so that we don't end up with more casualties.

QUESTION: What is the process...

QUESTION: Can you give us a little...

(CROSSTALK)

BISSONETTE: There was a question right here.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can you give us a little idea about mutual aid?

BISSONETTE: Sure.

QUESTION: I mean I think if you don't live in Buffalo (INAUDIBLE) an idea (INAUDIBLE) volunteer fire department. You guys obviously did a great job handling this.

But can you describe how many fire companies came in to help out, how you guys decided to go ahead and attack this? BISSONETTE: In quick numbers, this involved as many as nine volunteer fire departments, another four or five backing them up. We are very fortunate in our area to have relationships amongst fire departments where we have what's called mutual aid. Those companies respond at a moment's notice and like in kind with the host department, and work together in unison to bring something like this under control.

And that's exactly what happened tonight. They did a fabulous job.

(CROSSTALK)

BISSONETTE: There's a question.

Yes?

QUESTION: Your men, my understanding is, when they were first on the scene, were making -- making (INAUDIBLE) efforts to try to rescue people.

Can you talk about what they did when they first got on the scene, because obviously it's still hot now. It must have been overwhelmingly hot then -- what they encountered?

I mean I was told they were trying to (INAUDIBLE)?

BISSONETTE: Sure. Absolutely. That's their nature. I myself was a fireman for 27 years and I can tell you that those guys were doing exactly the same thing. They -- they are taking every -- making every effort to look and save survivors if they're to be found, to the point where they're putting themselves in harm's way.

And I'm sure that's what was happening out there. I was not there at the first truck in. Clearly, they made that effort.

There's another question in the back.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE)

BISSONETTE: Does someone else want to deal with that one?

(CROSSTALK)

COLLINS: You're probably looking at -- at something in the neighborhood of 10 miles. So this would be a fairly normal landing pattern for those of us in this area. Not surprising at all. A plane on a -- on a descent (INAUDIBLE). Yes, this would be, obviously, the (INAUDIBLE) very slightly (INAUDIBLE) aircraft depending on the amount of planes in the area.

But, no, this is a very normal landing path and (INAUDIBLE).

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: What did you hear? What did you see?

When did you first come on (INAUDIBLE)?

COLLINS: I'm probably three miles away. And, frankly, from that distance, didn't hear anything as we were in the house. I got a call from the emergency folks within a few minutes of it going down. But there -- I think right in this area, people heard the noise. But not -- not three to five miles away.

(CROSSTALK)

COLLINS: Yes, go ahead, Scott.

SCOTT BYLEWSKI, CLARENCE TOWN SUPERVISOR: I'm Scott Bylewski, Clarence Town supervisor, I live about a half a mille from the -- from the crash scene, which is approximately a mile from the library building that we are in presently. I did hear a -- what sounded like a door slamming. It was not a large boom. It was not a large explosion that I heard.

I then went outside of mine own house and took a look and could see that the sky was red to the west of my house, which is approximately where Long Street is located.

I would like to thank all the first responders. I want to thank all the agencies that have responded. And it's been truly a unified response, from the local, the state, the federal and the county level, just the way everyone has worked together greatly with our disaster coordinator, Dave Bissonette, the county executive (INAUDIBLE), the FBI, the NTSB, etc.

It's truly been a -- a great working relationship, unfortunately, under these sad conditions.

One thing, again, coming from my house -- coming out here tonight, I think it's important to remember that not only for the people who were on the plane, but the people who were on the ground, that when you do go home eventually after this incident is over, to please remember your family. Because I know when I go home, I'm sure going to give my wife and kids a big hug and kiss.

So I want you, again, to thank the service that has been rendered tonight and that will continue to be rendered. It was an incident at 6039 Long Street. Now we can report out.

And if there are other questions, I know that we will have further details to be released at a later date.

But, again, to remember, there is a limited state of emergency that has been delineated in terms of the roads by the New York State troopers. And I would ask that all the residents and all traffic please bear that in mind, as the investigation continues.

And, again, please remember that the people who were involved in the -- this horrific plane crash. Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Let me ask you again about -- you were asked about what was (INAUDIBLE).

And did they give you any idea of what the intensity was like in terms of these flames?

Are we talking sheets of flames or (INAUDIBLE) aviation fuel that was burning?

BISSONETTE: Well, aviation fuel, in its nature, burns very, very hot. So I can only imagine that those first arriving units found a fireball with very limited options but to -- to stay back. Radiant heat alone was enough to keep them from getting too close.

Again, I was not personally there at those moments, so I can only surmise as well as yourself. I will say, again, their diligence and efforts and the way they're -- these guys are trained, they're going to keep trying everything possible to get to those victims. And in this case here, there was -- it was not a happy ending.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) train for a catastrophe?

BISSONETTE: Absolutely. Airport crash rescue is part of the training curriculum. It's an elective. It's an extra skill that a lot of the firefighters have. And our close proximity to the airport warrants that.

QUESTION: Was there an attempt to bring in a phone truck or anything like that that could be used to...

BISSONETTE: Yes. We did have phone support from Buffalo airport. They were great. I think we had two -- at least two pieces of equipment, maybe three. And they continue to be onsite with us to help us (INAUDIBLE) that one.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) the pilot's experience?

No, I don't. I can't comment on that.

QUESTION: The next 24 or 48 hours, that, you know, when the fire gets put out (INAUDIBLE) and what's going to happen over the next day or two?

BISSONETTE: Well once -- I don't know if maybe the FBI can train that up a little better -- your action items and planning?

BENNETT: Once we get NTSB on the ground along the (INAUDIBLE) evidence response team and when the scene is safe for us to go upon, which, again, will depend upon the heat factor and (INAUDIBLE) that the county. But we will be on the scene and that's where we will do the question of evidence as far as aircraft and also certainly the loved ones that were lost in there and the personal effects and the other things that will hopefully give some solace to the families.

At the same time, we're going to be interviewing individuals that we may have been witnesses or have any information and sort of take it from there.

But it -- it will take some time because of, certainly, again, the area is somewhat of a contained area. However, we are not sure because of right now the lighting conditions upon the scene, how far out that will go -- all the ground that we'll have to cover.

But it is a very methodical recovery of evidence and we will work as quickly as we can to allow the community to get back in order.

But, again, our first concern will be to ensure we can do the prepare collection to ensure any investigative efforts can move forward and give some solace to the -- to the families that may have lost some loved ones in this.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: I understand you can't release the manifest.

But can you tell us how many people on board may be from this area?

COLLINS: At this point, again, we're not ready to release the manifest. I mean, we all know that there's a lot of people from this area. But the details will have to wait for another day or so.

QUESTION: Everybody or...

COLLINS: We don't -- you know, again, that's -- that's a level of detail we -- we really can't release right now.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) what the couldn't of the plane is going to be when you get in there? You know (INAUDIBLE) -- I understand there was a huge fire, but does that mean the plane is totally destroyed?

Have you ever worked with something (INAUDIBLE) evidence there?

BISSONETTE: The only recognizable piece of the plane left was the tail.

QUESTION: Meaning your job is (INAUDIBLE)?

BISSONETTE: Very. Very. I mean, the investigative process here will be extensive, looking for every part and piece and every construction process. It will be very painstaking.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) the weather conditions at the time of the crash (INAUDIBLE)?

BISSONETTE: Snowing, 32 degrees, moderate wind, typical for the last 24 hours. I wouldn't say it was anything unusual.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) obviously very early in this investigation (INAUDIBLE) may wonder is there any reason at all to believe this is (INAUDIBLE)?

BENNETT: We don't have any information to suggest that at this time. But, again, it's very early in the investigative stages, so we will pursue all avenues. And certainly any information that becomes available to -- that we can provide for the public as it goes on to rule out certain areas or provide information that would give the public much more understanding of what may happen, we will certainly do that.

But it really is too early to suggest nothing or all. I mean we really have to do our job. And, again, as the question as to when the condition of the aircraft, there is a lot that we still can do even with the condition that it may be in. We have people that are trained in this area and work closely with the aviation personnel.

So we -- we'll be very painstaking, but very methodical. And, again, any information we will keep the public informed about.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE)?

BENNETT: I'm sorry.

Could you repeat that?

QUESTION: Was this plane (INAUDIBLE) taking off?

And if so, what was the cause of the delay?

BENNETT: I do not have that information.

I don't know if anybody else on the panel would, but that is not -- I am not aware that, at this time, if that is actually true, that it was delayed in taking off. I don't know if any of the other panel members would have...

(INAUDIBLE).

QUESTION: The victim on the ground, did that person live in the house and what was the relationship to the two people who were injured in the home?

BYLEWSKI: At this time, there's -- we cannot yet confirm publicly regarding the individuals who did pass. And I would like to be able to confirm that and make sure that the family is aware -- I don't like to be able to confirm the information first.

QUESTION: Could anybody on the panel confirm when...

QUESTION: I mean, do you know how many people lived in the home?

QUESTION: ...whether there were some communications to the tower that there was a chemical problem on the plane (INAUDIBLE)? BISSONETTE: That's all yet to be determined. That's all part of the investigation.

QUESTION: Can you tell us...

(CROSSTALK)

BISSONETTE: I presume it, though.

QUESTION: ...the actual aircraft has (INAUDIBLE)?

(CROSSTALK)

COLLINS: The plane had a capacity of 74. It was a Bombardier Q400 flight being operated by Colgan Air.

QUESTION: Are schools going to be open (INAUDIBLE)?

COLLINS: We're on break right now through next week. So from the schools' standpoint, this is not going to be an inconvenience to the closest school, which is (INAUDIBLE) School.

QUESTION: Anything else that will be shut down today (INAUDIBLE) keep people from...

BISSONETTE: Well, the bulk of the block is residential. And we're pretty comfortable with limiting the access to just that residential street in the block that was involved.

QUESTION: And what is the population of Clarence?

BYLEWSKI: Approximately 28,700.

QUESTION: What's the distance from the crash site to the Buffalo airport?

COLLINS: Again, we estimate it, give or take, the 10 miles. It could even be less than that. It was a short distance.

BISSONETTE: OK. Two more questions.

QUESTION: Could you talk about the evacuation process and (INAUDIBLE), how many homes and could you discuss further (INAUDIBLE)...

BISSONETTE: We evacuated about 12 homes, plus or minus. The process is a door to door between law enforcement and the fire service, establishing whether anyone is home and if so, escorting them to a safe area.

QUESTION: Would you be able to describe the neighborhood?

Is it a cluster of homes generally or...

BISSONETTE: It's a -- it's a tight-knit cluster of homes, older homes with residents that have lived there for many, many years. QUESTION: Middle class?

BISSONETTE: Sure.

QUESTION: Because there are some really massive homes (INAUDIBLE).

BISSONETTE: This is a middle class area, is a fair statement. Again, long-term residents and with (INAUDIBLE) living in our time many, many years.

QUESTION: Going back to the two survivors, we understand you had two survivors, right?

QUESTION: Can you give us any idea of what their condition is at this point in time?

BISSONETTE: I'm not -- I'm not aware up to the minute (INAUDIBLE). Sorry.

QUESTION: Any known problems with the aircraft mechanically?

BISSONETTE: All right, folks. We're going to break it off there.

I appreciate everybody coming out for the information.

(CROSSTALK)

BISSONETTE: Probably the latter part of the morning, 8:00 or 9:00.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This press conference is breaking up at this point...

ROBERTS: So the press conference this morning from officials in Erie County -- the fire department and the Erie County commissioner there talking about this tragic crash of this flight, Continental, which was actually operated by Colgan Airlines. A 30-47 nose-diving into a home on Long Street in Clarence Centre.

They were talking about distances there -- how far from the runway. Just according to the ruler function of Google Earth, it was 5.86 miles from the -- the end of the runway to where the crash is.

And a mystery as to exactly what brought there is plane down. You listen to the transmission between the approach control and the -- the first officer of 3047 and the communication is completely normal until the plane suddenly disappears off the radar.

CHETRY: Right. And all of the officials that were doing this press briefing this morning were reluctant to give more details. They said that this crash site -- that plane was carrying about 5,000 pounds of fuel. They said most of it burned off in the explosion but that it's still hot and that it's going to be six to eight hours before people can even walk through -- before investigators can even check things out on the scene.

And so they are not giving as much detail about that.

But what we do know now, sadly, is that 49 people have died as a result of this plane crash. It was a plane that was leaving from Newark Liberty Airport on its way to Buffalo -- a routine commuter flight. And it crashed. Forty-eight people were on board -- 44 passengers, crew members and one person in a home.

The Clarence officials there saying this was a direct hit on the home. The plane crashed directly into it. They also noted it was quite remarkable, given the nature of the neighborhood, that it didn't hit more homes. He said it could have easily have taken out an entire block.

But, again, it looks like one person who was inside that home was killed and two others being treated at a local hospital for what's described as major injuries.

ROBERTS: A real indication of the dissent angle that this plane must have come in on. If it was on a low angle, it would have probably hit one house or two or three. But this just came in. He said that the plane -- the fuselage of the plane -- the wreckage of the plane is right on the foot print of the house. So it would have had to have come in near vertical to -- to do that.

It's ironic, too, to point out that had just passed two years without a fatality in American aviation. The last accident was August 27, 2006. It was that Comair jet that ran off the end of the runway in Lexington, Kentucky. It took off off the wrong runway. It was too short. Forty-nine people died in that crash, as well.

Forty-nine people died in this crash.

We should probably bring in John Lucich.

He is a commercial pilot. He flies in the New York area.

You've listened to the -- the transmission tapes between the approach control there at -- at Buffalo Niagara International Airport and Colgan 3047. And we'll listen to some of those.

But first of all, before we do, your initial impressions of what you heard.

JOHN LUCICH, LICENSED COMMERCIAL PILOT: Everything was fine. It seemed like to be a standard approach. The aircraft was cleared to intercept the localizer and to (INAUDIBLE)...

ROBERTS: (INAUDIBLE) English.

LUCICH: Oh, OK. If you flew to the air -- do an approach into the runway.

So and she responded fine. Now, if this airplane was having any problems before that, the pilots would have communicated that. And when you listen to all the other pilots, nobody is talking about any icing. Because typically pilots will warn each other of icing coming up or they've been experiencing.

ROBERTS: Well, let's take a moment and let's listen to those transmissions.

This is between Buffalo approach control and Colgan, which is Continental Airlines Flight 3407.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Colgan 34-7, approach.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Colgan 34-7, Buffalo.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Colgan 34-7, now approach.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Delta 1998, look off to your right side about five miles for a dash 8. It should be 4300.

Do you see anything there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Negative, Delta 1998. We're just in the bottoms and nothing on the TKs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Colgan 3407, Buffalo.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Colgan 3407, Buffalo Tower.

How do you hear?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) some ground communication. We need to talk to somebody at least five miles northeast, OK, possibly Clarence, that area right in there -- Akron area, either state police of sheriff's department. We need to find out if anything is on the ground. This aircraft was five miles out and all of a sudden we have no response on that aircraft.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All I can tell you was that an aircraft was over the marker and we're not talking to them now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE). Let me get right back to you, sir. But apparently we have an emergency. And I'll get back to you as soon as I can.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. For all aircraft on this frequency, we did have a dash 8 over the marker that didn't make the airport. He appears to be about five miles away from the airport.

Delta 1998, I'm going to bring you in, sir, on the approach. And if you could just give me a fire up when you get to 2300. And if you have any problem with the localizer or anything, let me know. However we're showing it all in the green here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) Cactus, did you find Colgan?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unfortunately, they said he went down about right over the marker (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tower, Cactus. 1452's coming up on the clump and we just -- we saw it down.

Do you guys know what's going on?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cactus 1452, Buffalo Tower into 26014 (ph), (INAUDIBLE) 23 to clear landing.

Yes, sir. We are aware.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

ROBERTS: So that's the communication between the approach control, the tower, other aircraft in the area and emergency officials after they discovered that 3407 wasn't there.

But leading up to that moment, what can you discern from the -- from the recordings?

I mean it sounds like a typically -- a pretty routine approach.

LUCICH: Yes. And if you listen to it, all the other aircraft were doing the same thing and nobody was having a problem here. So something, I believe, from what is transmissioned to the time when the airplane couldn't be contacted anymore, there was a very short amount of time. No transmissions about any problems. No transmissions from other pilots about any problems.

I believe whatever happened was catastrophic and immediate to either get their attention and couldn't communicate or something happened to the airplane that it just fell out of the sky. And icing could have been a problem with that.

CHETRY: And you -- you say that until we know more from the investigation, we're not going to know for sure.

But what do we know about this aircraft and what it's like flying in those type of conditions, that are pretty routine much of the year in Buffalo?

I mean you have light snow. You have cold weather. You have ice and sleet. LUCICH: Right. I've flown out of Buffalo airport at least a couple of hundred times on my cargo route when I was flying cargo. I've been into that airport. Typically on -- no matter what size airplane, when you're on an IFR flight plan, it's -- it's just routine. There is nothing wrong with flying through bad weather. And as long as you don't have a mechanical problem or a severe weather problem, you take off and you land at the other -- other side.

CHETRY: And what -- what about the situation with the engines?

And there's -- there is just -- all we're hearing is just election accounts. Apparently people saying that they heard a noise coming out of the engine, that -- that we don't know for sure what exactly that was.

But what about a turbo prop?

What does that mean and how does that possibly factor in?

LUCICH: Well, Pratt & Whitney engines are very sound engines. They've been in a -- used in a lot of different types of aircraft. And this has -- these have two of them on there.

These -- this aircraft is a sophisticated aircraft, to the point where it has microphones along the inside of the airplane to watch for the noise of the vibration to give you a much more comfortable flight as you're flying in this type of airplane.

The instrumentation that pilots have access to inside that is second to none.

So there's no reason that this couldn't have taken off and landed without a problem.

Now, if there was an engine problem, that would have gone to the noise. I know the earlier reports said that one of the wings were low and the other wings were high. That's typical, sometimes, if you have an engine out, that the good engine will be five degrees lower than the bad engine to prevent it from going over. Just a typical thing.

Procedure that pilots follow -- I don't know if that was the case. Until we know more, it's all going to be speculation.

ROBERTS: I mean the -- it was described sort of as a high pitched wine coming from the engine.

Could that just be over speed as the plane was nosing into the ground?

LUCICH: Yes, it could have been.

ROBERTS: I mean...

LUCICH: It could have been then trying to get the airplane flying again.

ROBERTS: Right.

LUCICH: It could have been that if they lost one engine, coming up with more power on the other engine. It could have been a lot of different things.

ROBERTS: So -- so, you know, we talked about the potential causes of this. Icing is one. Remember that American Eagle ATR Flight 4184 in 1994 in Indiana. It was flying through freezing rain. Suddenly, it just turned turtle, it went over, it rolled, it started nosing to the ground. The pilots could never regain control.

There was the US Airways plane in 1994, as well, in September, that was trying to approach Pittsburgh. It hit weight turbulence. There was a rudder problem that they pushed the rudder one way and it actually went the other way.

And then there was the wake turbulence of American Airlines Flight 587, flying out of JFK, that crashed in Bensonhurst in -- on Long Island there.

So could it be a combination wake turbulence, icing?

I'm when you're coming in for an approach, that's just about the diciest time of your entire flight, isn't it, take-off and landing?

LUCICH: Absolutely. And it's going to be the most...

CHETRY: And explain for people who don't -- who are not aviation experts what wake turbulence means.

LUCICH: OK. Let's just handle the icing first. The first point. But what happens is icing builds up on the leading edge. That means the front part of the wing. And if it continues to build up and it's not addressed, is actually deforms the wing and all of a sudden it makes you have a loss of lift and you can fall out of the sky -- actually, uncontrollably, if you don't address that -- that icing.

Wake turbulence is wake or air turbulence created by another airplane. Like a 747, when it takes off, or any airplane -- but the heavier the airplane, the more wake turbulence you're going to have.

ROBERTS: It's almost like a wave off the back of the boat only it's in the air, right?

LUCICH: It's actually just like little tornadoes actually coming off the wing tips of the airplane and can actually flip another airplane behind it if it's close enough. Typically, you should allow five minutes.

But with -- when -- before take-off or landing behind a heavy airplane.

However, there was no report of any other airplane in this instance or a report of icing. And there was no report of any other problems regarding this. So I...

ROBERTS: But whatever happened, you think it was catastrophic because there was just no communication?

You know, we saw Flight 1549, US Airways, which landed in the Hudson. There was all this communication between the cockpit and the tower.

LUCICH: Yes.

ROBERTS: And we heard nothing from this flight.

LUCICH: I think it was immediate. Absolutely. I've been saying that. Because otherwise, she would have responded to one of the several calls. You have two pilots there. One could have flown the airplane and the other one communicated.

CHETRY: All right, John, stick with us.

We are right now going to go on the phone right now to Mary Jane Luce.

She was living in -- they were in their home only about two houses away from where this crash happened when the plane went down.

And Mary Jane joins us this morning.

Thanks for being with us.

I know it's probably a -- a surreal time for you guys right now.

Can you tell us, first of all, what you witnessed, what you saw and heard as this plane was coming in?

MARY JANE LUCE, HEARD PLANE CRASH: Well, first we heard the really loud airplane engines. It felt like it was right over our house. And it stopped very abruptly, which was a surprising thing, because you're used to them droning on and going further away.

And then we, after a few seconds of silence, we heard this huge explosion and the house shook. And we ran toward our back windows, which look out toward the house that was hit. And we could see flames rising high into the sky. And so we grabbed our coats and ran outside to get a better view, because there's a building partially blocking the view.

And we went over onto the side street. And you could see that there -- well, you almost couldn't see because of the flames and the smoke. There was so much that it appeared that the house that was there was totally gone already.

CHETRY: And so this is a house that's just two -- this is a house that's just two doors down from where you live?

LUCE: Yes.

CHETRY: And what we're hearing right now -- and I don't know if you can shed any light on this -- is that unfortunately one person in that home was killed as a result of this... LUCE: Yes.

CHETRY: ...but that two people were able to get out with minor injuries.

What do you know?

LUCE: Yes. There -- well, it was an older couple that lived there. And the man didn't get out. His wife did and one grown child that was there. And they were -- they had minor injuries, we heard later, and they were taken to one of the local hospitals.

CHETRY: Now, David Bissonette, the emergency coordinator for the Town of Clarence said in this news conference that we just heard about 10 or 15 minutes ago that it was remarkable, despite the tragedy, of course, of the loss of life, that only one home was taken out, that this could have easily taken out your entire neighborhood.

LUCE: It is. When it -- when you see the flames, it was remarkable that it didn't do more damage. But there was no wind to speak of and everything was wet. So there were a lot of sparks and bunches of -- gobs of burning ash floating through the air. But when they landed, they landed on wet surfaces.

CHETRY: What -- can you describe for us, again, the sound that you heard?

They say that it's going to be several hours until they can actually start to survey the crash site and so it's going to be several hours before they know exactly what happened.

But as we look at these pictures and sort of try to piece together what may have caused this -- what, by all accounts, was supposed to be a routine flight to go down, what did you hear again in the early moments when you realized that there was a plane coming in?

LUCE: Just a very, very loud engine noise -- much louder than normal. And then it abruptly stopped. And then a few seconds of silence and then we heard the explosion.

We have a tenant who actually saw the -- the flames coming in. He was on his way home, passing our fire hall, which is a block away. And it -- the flame came over the fire hall from south to north and he saw it hit the house. He was actually on his phone calling before it actually hit.

And he said it was in a very steep trajectory. So that's probably why it didn't damage other houses.

CHETRY: What was the weather like?

LUCE: It was sort of a combination of a little bit of rain and snow with sort of in the process of turning from rain to snow. The ground was wet and had slush on it. The roofs were wet and had slush on them. But it wasn't windy.

CHETRY: And what's the -- what's the feeling right now in the area?

I mean do -- besides the shock of what happened, what's going on right now in the -- in the Town of Clarence?

LUCE: Relief that more people we're not hurt. Unbelievable what the -- that the firemen didn't get hurt trying to put the flames out. The flames went on for hours. And they kept pouring water on and they would die down and then rise back up. And they finally seemed to be down. I see mostly steam coming from it now.

They've already been searching the back yards and the driveways and all the perimeter, looking for debris and parts.

CHETRY: Yes, you're absolutely right when you say it's really a wonder that more people we're not hurt on the ground, and also the firefighters -- we got word that there were nine volunteer fire departments that responded and four to five backing them up. And, again, when you're dealing with 5,000 pounds of fuel that apparently exploded on impact, it is really quite -- quite a testament that more people were not hurt.

I'm glad you're OK. I know it's going to be a -- a tough several days to come for your community.

Mary Jane Luce, thanks so much for joining us this morning.

ROBERTS: Now, as you can imagine, you know, the 48 people dead on the aircraft, one on the ground, as well. And, thankfully, the wife of the man who was in the house got out, along with her -- her adult child, as well.

But you can imagine that on both ends of that flight, in Newark or New York or New Jersey, people who sent their loved ones onto that aircraft, people in Buffalo who were waiting at the other end for them to arrive.

And this morning we're hearing directly from some of the people who were touched by the tragedy.

Alina Cho is here and she's following that part of the story for us this morning -- and, Alina, we can just imagine, you know, where you've been waiting for someone to arrive at the airport...

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: And then you hear there's been a problem with the flight.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And certainly anybody who has been through this knows it is just a gut-wrenching feeling. I mean we heard from one desperate plea from a loved one who said, we know they're dead. Why can't they just tell us or take us to I.D. Them?

That's just one person, John. You know, when you talk about how many people died -- 48 people on the plane, one person on the ground. That means there are 49 families in mourning today. And each one of those stories we're hearing is heartbreaking.

According to "The Buffalo News," one of the women on the plane, Beverly Eckert is her name, she was a 9/11 widow.

She had lost her husband in the World Trade Center and she was actually traveling to Buffalo for what was supposed to be a celebration of what would have been her husband's 58th birthday.

Then there's Ellyce Kausner. She was on the plane, as well. And last night, her brother Chris, still in shock, heard the news on the radio first. He called his parents in Florida. And then he talked to reporters.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS KAUSNER, SISTER ON PLANE: My parents are on vacation in Florida. And I had to call down there and tell my father what was going on. And I -- I -- I'm just thinking about my mom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are they taking it?

KAUSNER: To tell you the truth, I heard my mother make a noise on the phone that I never heard before. My other sister, Laura, was waiting at the airport. I heard on the radio that there had been a crash, so I called immediately to see if the plane had landed at the airport or not.

And initially, she thought that it had, but it turns out that that is not the case.

Right now, I'm thinking the worst and I'm thinking about the fact that my mother has to fly home from Florida and what I'm going to tell my two sons. That's what I'm thinking.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: Now, a second ago, we heard from a woman who lived in the neighborhood where the plane went down. And those eyewitness accounts are coming in, as well.

Take a listen to a group of friend who were just hanging out when they heard the plane outside their window.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY WKBW)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were in his room. And we heard it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I looked over there and we were just relaxing in my room.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ...plane come at him. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard the plane coming in real loud. I thought it was going right over my house. And we heard it explode and my whole room shook. So...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We looked out the window, saw somebody...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we thought we'd check it out. We came down here and it was nuts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: Then we're hearing the close calls, as well, guys. There was a woman named Susie Rinehart (ph). She actually travels from Newark to Buffalo every Thursday. Her plane was late and so she actually thought about getting on Flight 3407. She decided, for whatever reason, at the last minute, not to get on that flight.

So when she landed, she saw the people waiting for Flight 3407 to come in and she noticed it was quiet. She -- you know, she picked up her bag. And then it wasn't until later, of course, that she realized what are people doing at 11:00 waiting for a plane?

She realized those were loved ones -- family members, friends waiting for that plane to arrive. Of course, it never did.

ROBERTS: And the story of Beverly Eckert, too, the widow of the 9/11 victim...

CHO: It'd incredible.

ROBERTS: Unbelievably tragic, particularly when you consider that she talked to her husband, Sean Rooney, who was in the South Tower, just above where the plane hit, talked to him literally as the tower began to collapse around him.

CHO: And remember, too, this is just one story. There are 49 families and extended families and friends who are all in mourning. And those stories are just coming in now.

And, of course, in the coming days and weeks, we'll be hearing much more of them, sadly.

ROBERTS: Unbelievable.

Alina, thanks for that.

New York Governor David Patterson is issuing a statement this morning. It reads as follows: "As we continue to monitor the situation in the Town of Clarence, our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who were on board and with the people of the Buffalo metropolitan area. We will work closely with law enforcement and aviation officials to give families, loved ones and the public updated information as soon as it becomes available." And, of course, there's plenty that we still don't know about what may have contributed to this crash, including what role the weather conditions may have played.

CNN's Rob Marciano is following that part of the story for us this morning -- what were the conditions like at the time last night, about 10:00 -- Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, ATS METEOROLOGIST: Well, not good, for one thing. We're looking at rain that turned over to snow around mid-afternoon yesterday. Winds were gusty all afternoon. Anybody who lives in the Northeast knows that. They were winding down in the last couple of hours, but still fairly gusty at the time.

The observations at the Buffalo airport for the 10:00 obs (ph) were light snow, fog and also mist. So it wasn't completely over to snow yet and with fog and the visibility on the surface of three miles, that's not bad, but not great.

Ceiling heights were at roughly 2,100 feet. So basically they'd be flying through the clouds until they got below 2,000 feet or so and then they would be able to -- to see the runway. So obviously that's why they were in for -- instrument -- instrument flying there.

Southwesterly winds at 17 miles an hour, gusting to 25 miles an hour. And, again, that's no big deal -- especially when you consider the runway which they were approaching, which is pointed towards the southwest. So they would be flying pretty much directly into that -- into that wind. So not a whole lot as far as cross winds were concerned.

As far as what the radar looked like at that time, obviously a fair amount of snow. It was raining earlier in the day, but turning to mostly snow. But you also see a bit of a mix there on the -- on the radar scope. So it was in the process of turning over to all snow.

When we look at the -- the sounding, the balloons that -- the weather balloons that are sent up twice a day, it pretty much showed a temperature reading, really, for the first 10,000 feet or so right around -- right around the freezing mark. So typically you would see temperatures drop off fairly rapidly. But the atmosphere was in a transition from going from warm to cold. And often when that happens, you'll get a mix -- a mix of rain and snow. And, you know, that would certainly be -- help build up any sort of ice on any sort of surface at that time.

As far as what we're looking at as far as what's happening right now, temperatures are still up around the freezing mark and winds southwesterly continue to be that way. And as far as the lake effect snows that are so prevalent this time of year, Lake Erie actually freezes over -- well, not the entire lake, but it freezes over more than any other lake. And by around this time of year, they start to cut off the lake effect snow machine. You can get some enhancement from -- from cracks in the ice and certainly the entire lake is not frozen over. But you don't get the dramatic lake effect snow that you would typically get in the earlier part of the winter. These are some of -- a look at some of the winds that are happening right now from Cleveland to Erie to Buffalo and Syracuse. The snow should be winding down as we go throughout the morning, and that will certainly help efforts on the ground.

But I can't really speculate, John and Kiran, obviously, as to what happened. But I can tell you with a fair amount of confidence that weather conditions did not help, that's for sure.

ROBERTS: Yes. And none of the other aircraft, though, have reported any problems with -- with icing or even the weather. So a real mystery, Rob, as to what brought down this flight.

Rob, thanks so much.

CHETRY: Well, the plane was a Continental connection flight. It was Number 3407, as we've been saying. It's been operated and was operated by Colgan Air. And now we're learning a little bit more about the commuter aircraft, also, its safety record.

Jason Carroll joins us now.

He's following that part of the story -- hi, Jason.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you.

We'll try to get as much information about this as we can. The plane was a Bombardier Q400 Dash 8 turbo prop. In the aviation industry, the Q came to be known by some for its quiet engines. It's a 74-seat twin engine operated by Colgan Airways, a theater airline for Continental. It was manufactured by de Havilland Canada. And according to our research, this is the first time there has been a crash involving fatalities on this type of aircraft in the United States.

A little bit more about the plane's record. There have been 27 occurrences on this type of aircraft. The last record of fatalities was in June, 1995, in New Zealand.

As for the age of the plane that crashed in Buffalo, records show the first flight of the turbo prop was in 2008. So this was a new plane.

This type of plane also has a history of having issues with its fuel lines and landing gear, but the pilots, as you've heard from many of the aviation experts, did not indicate there was a problem upon approach. Of course, that doesn't mean there wasn't a problem.

The NTSB is going to be the ones who have to sort all of this out.

The only recognizable piece left of the plane seems to be a chunk of the tail. NTSB investigators will look for every part of the plane to try and reconstruct whatever they can. But as you've heard from many of the experts this morning, Kiran, it's just too early to suggest what really happened here -- Kiran.

CHETRY: All right.

Jason just giving us a little bit of a history lesson, if you will, on the airplane and the make and model and some of the past incidents.

Thanks so much.

Well, our coverage of the fatal plane crash breaking news from Buffalo, New York continues.

We're going to take a quick break right now.

It's 55 minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LUCE: But it was just this very, very loud engine noise -- much louder than normal. And then it abruptly stopped. And then a few seconds of silence and then there would be explosions.

We have a tenant who actually saw the -- the flames coming in. He was on his way home, passing our fire hall, which is a block away. And it -- the flame came over the fire hall from south to north and he saw it hit the house. He was actually on his phone calling before it actually hit.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: All right. That was a little bit of sound from Mary Jane Luce. She and her husband David were in a home just two homes away from where this plane made a direct hit in a town, Clarence Centre, right outside of Buffalo.

We also have with us this morning John Lucich, who is an aviation expert, a commercial pilot for years.

And I just wanted to get you to weigh in on what she said, because we were talking earlier about what -- as we try to find out more details about what may have gone wrong.

What does -- what does is indicate when she says she heard a loud engine noise and then silence, then the crash?

LUCICH: OK. Well, it could have been a lot of different things.

First of all, you know, I know they live by the airport and they're used to that, but they're probably not used to airplanes being that low, also. The loud noise could have been because the airplane was so low and it would have been an abnormal sound to them.

The second scenario is that they were having problems. They were coming up with a lot more power to off -- to maintain the flight they thought they could try to maintain and they couldn't maintain that. And then all of a sudden, the airplane hit. ROBERTS: So you -- you've flown into Buffalo Niagara Airport, you said, hundreds...

LUCICH: Oh, yes. A couple -- at least a couple of hundred times.

ROBERTS: So have you ever done that approach to Runway 23, which, just to orient people, is 230 degrees on the compass. So it's actually -- you're landing to the southwest.

LUCICH: Right.

ROBERTS: That approach, have you ever shot that approach before?

LUCICH: I'm sure I have. You know, I can't tell you that I've shot that exact approach, but I've been in there so many times, I'm sure I've landed on almost every runway at Buffalo. It's a sophisticated airport with a sophisticated landing system. And so was the airplane.

And like I said, there was no reports of any problems by any of the pilots.

CHETRY: So is the -- does the eyewitness account of a loud noise and then silence indicate anything?

It wasn't -- she didn't describe it as a loud noise and then the crash. She talked about silence and then (INAUDIBLE)...

LUCICH: I honestly can't explain that, because no one is just going to pull off the power just seconds before the crash, OK?

You know, when you take a look at the weather that was reported just before we came back on, they said yes, it was bad weather. But it was 2,000 feet and it was three miles visibility. That's pretty good weather in terms of IFR, OK?

I've shot approaches right down to a missed approach and it was 200 feet. So 2,000 feet and three miles visibility -- the only thing that it could have been, if it was weather-related, was icing. But, again, no pilot reports -- and that's what the controller was asking for the Delta. He was asking for a PIREP, which is a pilot report.

ROBERTS: I've got you.

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