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Continuing Coverage of the Buffalo, New York, Commuter Plane Crash

Aired February 13, 2009 - 05:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN HOST: All right. Well, what we should do is we're crossing the top of the hour here, is welcome in our viewers around the world who are watching us this morning on CNN International.

Good morning.

It's Friday.

It's the 13th of February, and Friday the 13th living up to its name this morning, unfortunately.

We're following breaking news today, the crash of a Continental Airlines commuter plane into a house in suburban Buffalo, New York. Authorities say 49 people are dead. All 48 on board the aircraft. It was 44 passengers and four crew members and one person on the ground.

Continental Connection Flight 3407 went down just after 10:00 last night, reported in icy conditions. Some light snow was falling. It crashed into a house in the town of Clarence Centre, just short of six miles away from the end of the runway.

One witness said the impact felt like a mini earthquake.

The flight was heading from Newark, New Jersey to Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

Air controllers lost communication with the aircraft when it was about, as we said, six miles from the airport.

The Continental commuter flight was operated by Colgan Air. It was a Bombardier Dash 8 Q400. It's a 74-seat turbo prop.

And we know a lot more about this crash than we normally would because, Kiran, there was a recording that was made of the communications.

CHETRY: Yes, that's right. It was very interesting that this -- the Buffalo air traffic control's radio messages shortly before the crash were captured by a Web site. It's actually live -- And apparently aviation buffs do listen in on some of these -- most of them, obviously, routine. This one, unfortunately not.

And we do have a portion of the audio from the air traffic controllers. Also, our aviation expert with us today, John -- well, with us today is John Lucich. Earlier, it was John Wiley, who heard the entire tape. And he also said that in the moments before that crash, as he had a chance to look at the tape, John Wiley, the aviation expert, says in the moments before the crash there did not appear to be any stress in the voices of the crew.

Let's listen.


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: (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: (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.



CHETRY: All right. So there you had a chance to listen to a small portion of that exchange -- that radio exchange with air traffic -- the air traffic controllers out of Buffalo.

Now, as the morning unfolds, we're hearing from some of the people that were directly touched by this tragedy.

Alina Cho joins us now with more.

And at this point, officials -- emergency officials were confirming that 49 people, all 48 on the plane and one man in a home on the ground, were killed.

CHO: That means there are 49 families in mourning, guys. And it's just gut-wrenching -- heartbreaking to hear those stories. Each one of those stories, we're hearing, of course, heartbreaking.

According to "The Buffalo News," one of the women on the plane, Beverly Eckert, 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 weekend celebration of what would have been her husband's 58th birthday.

Then there's a woman named 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 then called his parents. And then he talked to reporters at the airport.

Take a listen.


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.


CHO: Clearly a man still in shock.

You know, there's a woman named Susie Rhinehart (ph). She travels from Newark to Buffalo every single Thursday. Her plane was delayed and she actually thought about getting on Flight 3407. But for some reason, at the last minute, she decided not to.

Here is how she described the scene at the airport when her flight landed.


Nobody said anything. We got our bags and it was late. There were other planes that were delayed. And now that I look back at it, I'm thinking there were an awful lot of people waiting for passengers.

And I'm thinking who is waiting for somebody at 11:00 at night on a Thursday?

And it turns out it was these people waiting for -- waiting for people to get off that plane. My phone didn't stop ringing because that's -- I'm almost always on that flight, every Thursday. I'm on -- everyone knows, oh, Susie is on the flight from Newark to Buffalo.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, fortunately...

Yes. My phone just kept ringing. People were saying -- one of my best friends called me and she said, My husband made me get out of bed and call to see if you made it home.


CHO: Just imagine. That is the ultimate close call, guys. I mean she -- she almost got on that flight and decided not to. And, as you might imagine, I mean for all of those people who love her and know her, know she travels from Newark to Buffalo every single Thursday, you know, her phone, as you heard, was ringing off the hook, people calling her saying...

ROBERTS: You know, life is a series of twists and turns. You turn right, you turn left, you stop, you go and you...

CHO: That's right.

ROBERTS: You know.

CHO: And it can be taken from you in a blink, as we're seeing here.

You know, what's so interesting, as you guys know, you know, there's been so much talk up until now about the "Miracle on the Hudson." And since Sunday, you know, we saw Captain Sully...


CHO: ...and the crew talking to the media, you know, seeing the passengers on the plane and such happiness and really, throughout the country, about this. And to see something like this happen so soon afterward -- really, inside of a month -- it's not just tragic, really, it's -- it's truly mind-boggling.

ROBERTS: And the story of Beverly Eckert, as well. You know, she was on -- she was in Buffalo on September the 11th when the phone rang. And it was her husband calling from the South Tower.

CHO: The 9/11 widow. Of course. Right.

ROBERTS: Yes. She was the 9/11 widow. It was her son calling -- her husband, Sean Rooney, calling from the South Tower. The plane had hit just a few floors below where he was. And she talked to him back and forth. They were saying: "I love you, I love you."

Then she heard this enormous crash and then the phone went dead. And that was as the South Tower collapsed.

And now her family members are saying well, she's -- she finally joined her husband.

CHO: And imagine what that family is going through right now, to have a double tragedy like that...

CHETRY: Because she lost her sister.

CHO: That's right. And, you know, I think...

CHETRY: In this crash.

CHO: I think what's interesting, too, is that -- is that she was traveling to Buffalo to celebrate what would have been her husband's 58th birthday. The family, I believe, created a scholarship in his name. And so she was going there for what was supposed to be a very sort of, you know, happy celebration and remembrance of her husband.

And to have this happen to this family, it's just -- just heartbreaking and tragic.

CHETRY: And, you know, you just got me thinking a little -- thank you so much -- about the -- that when we talked to the crew of "The Miracle on the Hudson" flight, they acknowledged that, you know, they all were prepared to die, as well. When they -- when the two engines went out they didn't think -- and especially Doreen, who one of the flight attendants in the back of the plane that had that really violent landing when it did land in the river.

She said she thought she was dead. And so, you know, their -- their story -- the reason it's been called "The Miracle on the Hudson" is because more often than not, it ends the way we're describing this morning, not the way it ended for their flight.

ROBERTS: And it -- it's a really marked difference, too, because "The Miracle on the Hudson" and this flight. We had all of those communications back and forth between the tower and Captain Sully, who was trying to figure out what to do in this emergency situation.

In the air traffic control recordings that we have heard with Flight 3407, there was just no indication that there was a problem whatsoever. The transmission just seemed -- the communications seemed to be perfectly routine and then suddenly the aircraft was gone.

Let's bring in -- to try to fill in some of the blanks here -- John Lucich. He is a licensed commercial pilot.

He flies here out of New York City area. He's flown into Buffalo Niagara Airport dozens of times.

When you listen to those tapes -- and we'll play some of them in just a second here -- do you get any indication of an impending disaster?

LUCICH: No, absolutely not. In fact, everything is just contrary to that, says this flight is just a standard, routine flight and everything is -- and it's going to land in a couple of minutes.

ROBERTS: Why don't we -- do we have the tapes?

Can we play those tapes?

We don't have them yet.

So let me just ask you one more question. When you -- because you've flown into Buffalo Niagara, in weather like this, where you're just about the freezing mark, there's some snow falling, there might be a little bit of sleet, as well. We heard reports of some icing on the roads.

As a pilot, what precautions are you taking?

What's your checklist are you're coming in on your final approach?

LUCICH: Well, if you have icing, it's a whole another set of circumstances. They have de-icing equipment on board that airplane that runs along the leading edge of the airplane to prevent the ice from building up.

So while it -- I'm not saying that icing couldn't have been a problem, OK -- because we don't know enough yet. But other than that, it's just a routine flight coming inbound.

Now, just so people understand, when this airplane was cleared to intercept the localizer, there's two needles in the airplane that actually are crosshairs. One is a localizer, which keeps you center line with the runway. And your glide slope brings you down on a nice glide to make sure you're not too high, where you're going to overshoot the runway, or too low, where you're going to hit obstacles.

And when you follow the ILS right down to the runway, it will take you to the beginning of the runway for a perfect landing and they were on target for that.

ROBERTS: Do you think...

CHETRY: You know...

ROBERTS: Go ahead.

CHETRY: Oh, I was just going to say, for people that are -- that are just joining us right now, we're waiting. The NTSB is going to be getting to the scene in about 50 minutes. And that's when they'll probably come there and start investigating this crash.

They had talked earlier about the fact that there was 5,000 pounds of fuel burning. The emergency responders were saying they didn't think anyone would be able to get to the scene and actually do anything of substance, in terms of investigating, until about six to eight hours. They needed to let it cool down a little bit.

LUCICH: Right.

CHETRY: So we are waiting for answers. And, of course, they're going to be looking into some of this stuff.

But what indication, if any, does it give you when they describe that this plane plummeted -- almost dove or -- dove directly into this home?

Not clearly the difference of attempting a landing -- an emergency landing somewhere versus diving.

LUCICH: Right.

CHETRY: And a direct hit into a house.

LUCICH: Again, speculation, but it goes to support my theory that something happened catastrophic because this thing -- the last few -- the last contact was five miles out and it ended up in the same town where it was. In fact, the controller was right on, where he named -- even named the name of the town that it could have been in. And he was right. It was right there.

Witnesses said that this airplane was coming down almost vertically. And that would not have been any type of an approach pilots would have been going for. That just tells me that this approach was -- excuse me, this angle was caused by an airplane out of control.


LUCICH: They lost control of this airplane.

ROBERTS: We do have a tape -- the recording of the communications. We got this off of, which was an -- is an enthusiasts' Web site. It lessons into air traffic controller around the world. They just happened to be listening in to Buffalo at the time that 3407 was coming in.

So let's play a little bit of that. And I believe we have the spot where you'd hear some communication between the approach control and 3407. And it seems to be pretty routine. And then suddenly, air traffic controllers realize something has gone catastrophically wrong.

Let's listen.


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: (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: (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.



ROBERTS: Well, that's the -- that's the part of the tape where they have realized that something has gone wrong.

But John Lucich, let's bring him back in here.

And, John, leading up to that point, there was routine communications between approach control out of Buffalo and the first officer of 3407, where they told her descend through 6,000 feet, descend through 4,000 feet. She acknowledged both of those commands, descended 2,300 feet. And then they handed her off and handed the aircraft over to the tower control.

LUCICH: Right.

ROBERTS: And there was one last final acknowledgement where you hear her say, "Colgan 3407." And then nothing.

So, I mean, how can something go that wrong instantaneously on what would have been a normal approach?

LUCICH: It happens.

ROBERTS: Or what appeared to be a normal approach.

LUCICH: It has happened in the past. You know, we had the flight out of Florida where they had the cargo underneath that actually caused a fire -- very rapidly caused that airplane to go down.

ROBERTS: The (INAUDIBLE) canister.

LUCICH: Absolutely. You had Flight 587, where the tailfin fell off -- assembly out on Long Island.

Things happen. I don't believe it was a structural failure, but I do believe that something happened and we won't know until the investigation is done.

ROBERTS: Right. Now, the -- you recounted the emergency officials and the Erie County commissioner said that that plane came in -- the reason why the fire was so intense was because it came in with 5,800 pounds of fuel on board.

Does that sound right to you?

LUCICH: Yes, absolutely.

ROBERTS: Would it have that much fuel after the flight?

LUCICH: Actually, what it is, is 7,045 gallons is max capacity in that -- that particular airplane, I believe. But it all depends how -- how much they took off with.


LUCICH: And remember, this is a very, very short flight. So it wasn't -- it took probably under an hour to get up to Buffalo with the approach and everything, so they wouldn't have burned off much fuel at all and they would have been loaded.

ROBERTS: All right. So if you had an icing problem or if you ran into what was called -- what's known as wake turbulence, which is little vortexes coming off of the edges of the wing of the plane ahead of you, is that something that could have caused a catastrophic incident from which there would be no recovery and during which the pilots would have no opportunity to contact approach or controller tower?

LUCICH: Absolutely. In fact, when wing tip -- when wake turbulence takes control of your airplane, you don't have time to do anything but react. There's no decision making. There is just instinct to move that airplane. Sometimes pilots can make it worse than it really is, like what happened with Flight 587. They blamed the first officer for over compensating on a rudder that caused a tail fin to pull off.

CHETRY: Why doesn't this happen more then? I mean, you know, there -- our airports are crowded. You have so many flights taking off. Even in this instance, we heard air traffic controller talking to several other flights, as well.

LUCICH: Right.

CHETRY: Why don't we -- why don't we hear about this happening more?

LUCICH: Well, controllers usually give you more spacing -- adequate spacing. But sometimes it happens. But, you know, the final decision comes down to the captain. If the captain doesn't feel that he or she does not have enough spacing before take-off or before landing, he should tell the controller that, that he wants more spacing between them.

ROBERTS: Now, there have been a couple of safety directives that the FAA has issued on the Dash 8 aircraft. One is regarding the hydraulic system, to make sure that if the hydraulic system loses power, you can still control the aircraft.

The other has been a problem with the landing gear. There's been a couple of incidents, one with the Scandinavian Air Service's Dash 8, another one in Colombia, whereupon landing, the right gear collapsed.

LUCICH: Right.

ROBERTS: But neither one of those could possibly be connected with this accident, could it?

LUCICH: Well, I don't -- first of all, it never got that far with the right landing gear, because you never made -- got to make a landing. Something happened to cause this airplane to come out of control and come down vertically. And that's what they need to find out.

When they get those black boxes, they'll be able to hook that right up to a computer and show exactly what that airplane -- every instrument, every gauge in the airplane will be visible to them to replay that entire flight right up to point where they went down.

And while they were going down...

ROBERTS: Yes. They'll also have the cockpit voice recording, as well.

LUCICH: Yes. That will just match up with what the instruments were doing. So they'll know exactly if that airplane -- when that airplane went in a dive and what caused it.

ROBERTS: Now, you may or may not know the answer to this question. This is a relatively new aircraft that went into service in 2008.

There would have been upgrades, I would assume, to the black box recordings. Do you know how many parameters would typically be monitored on the black box and what kind of a picture that could paint of the final moments of this crash?

LUCICH: Well, every airplane is going to be different, I would assume, because they have different gauges that they're probably watching and depending on the size of the airplane, the make and model of the airplane. But I would guess that every airplane gauge in that -- in that aircraft is being monitored by the black box, not only your navigational, but your engine is also.

They'll be able to tell when more power was given, when less power was given, the pitch of the airplane, everything.

ROBERTS: All right.

John Lucich, good to have you with us this morning.

Please stay with us throughout the morning.

We're following breaking news -- the crash of a Continental Airlines commuter plane into a house in suburban Buffalo, New York.

Authorities say 49 people are dead. All 48 on board the plane, 44 passengers, four crew members, and one person on the ground.

Continental Connection Flight 3407 went down just after 10:00 last night, reportedly in icy conditions. There was also some snow falling. It crashed into a house in Clarence Centre.

One witness said the impact felt like a mini earthquake. The flight was headed from Newark, New Jersey to Buffalo Niagara International Airport. Air controllers lost communication with the airplane when it was about just under six miles away from the edge of the -- the runway.

The Continental commuter flight was operated by Colgan Air. And the aircraft itself was a Bombardier Dash 8 Q400, 74-seat turbo prop, a real workhorse designed to operate in extreme weather conditions. So this is a real mystery as to what brought this aircraft down.

CHETRY: Right. Because as we've been saying, as well, there were -- there were many planes before and after that landed with no trouble and no reports of any trouble because of the weather conditions there or icing.

So, again, as we said, NTSB are going to be on the scene in about 40 minutes. And that's when they'll begin their investigation. But it could be several hours or perhaps days until we know exactly what happened.

Meantime, though, witnesses in this small community were shocked at the sounds and the sights that they witnessed. And we have some new images that are coming into us from just moments after the plane exploded into this house. There have been coming in all morning. One iReport was sent to us by Anthony Trigilio. You can see the huge blaze and then the thick black smoke. Trigilio says that he heard the crash, he felt his home . Firefighters at the time were focused on trying to secure the scene and prevent the aircraft fuel from exploding again.

In fact, emergency responders call it a truly heroic effort on the part of firefighters, getting as close to the plane as they could, shouting to see if there were any survivors. Unfortunately, as we're now learning, there were no survivors.

But, again, emergency officials there from the Town of Clarence say that it could have been way worse. It was one home that this plane made basically a direct hit on. But they said that because it's such a small community and the homes are quite close together, it could have easily taken out several homes in the past, only making a direct hit on one.

And we do know that one man in that home was killed.

Flight 3407 was delayed, by the way, about two hours before it left Newark Liberty International Airport. And that's when CNN -- that's where CNN's Allan Chernoff is live this morning to bring us more information on what he knows from Newark this morning -- Allan, hi.


CHERNOFF: Good morning.

All I can tell you about the conditions here at Newark, just like we have this morning, very, very strong winds yesterday. Last night, the winds also extremely strong. As you mentioned, the flight was delayed several hours. Originally scheduled to depart at 7:45. Probably the wind played some factor in that, but we certainly cannot say that it had anything to do with the -- with the tragic -- the tragic crash, of course, outside of Buffalo Niagara Airport.

Now, I did go inside and talked with some passengers waiting to board other flights. People a little bit stunned, frankly, to hear this news. Some had not heard the news at all. A few people told me they are nervous about getting on a plane this morning.

One woman told me that she actually was feeling safer about flying after the incident just a couple weeks ago, the wonderful incident when we did have that US Airways flight actually land on the Hudson River.

But now some passengers inside here at Newark Airport are filled with some trepidation because of this tragic news -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Any loved ones or family members or another there right now at Newark trying to either get information or -- or trying to figure out what's going on?

There were many people, of course, that were from the New York area that were flying to Buffalo. There are people that do business daily and go back and forth, actually. It's quite a short flight. CHERNOFF: We've -- we've been inside the terminals looking for any individuals. We have not found anybody. It's very quiet inside right now.

I did hear on one local radio station of a man who missed his connection to be on 3407. He was coming from New Orleans and, obviously, incredibly thankful.

We are searching for him but he may not be at the airport anymore -- Kiran.

CHETRY: All right.

CNN's Allan Chernoff at Newark Liberty for us this morning.


ROBERTS: Well, one of the first news photographers on the scene was Harry Scull, Jr. . He is a news staff photographer for "The Buffalo News." He lives there in the community, just -- not far away from where the plane came down.

It's about 10:20 last evening, Harry.

What did you hear?

What happened?

HARRY SCULL, JR. PHOTOGRAPHER, "BUFFALO NEWS": You know, I heard the fire alarms go off about 10:19. And I didn't think much of it. And then the phone rang within a minute. And I knew it would be something, because it was just too much of a coincidence.

My neighbor called me hysterical that a plane hit a house, to look out the front window. And, you know, from a mile away, you could see the flames as clear as the day.

ROBERTS: So, obviously, you know, you just reverted to your news instincts. You grabbed your camera. You headed on over there as quickly as you could.

What was the scene like when you got there?

SCULL: I actually got the -- what you need to know is right across the street from where the scene was is a volunteer fire company. Right across the street -- less than 100 yards. There were already on the scene.

The ball of fire just lit up the sky and you could smell the diesel fuel.


And how intense was that fire, Harry?

SCULL: It was -- it was very hot. I -- you know, I'll be honest with you, I made my images and I wanted to get out to make a deadline and I left.

ROBERTS: Did you get a chance to talk to any of the neighbors, any eyewitnesses who might have actually seen the plane come down?

Because what we're trying to figure out this morning -- and obviously the National Transportation Safety Board will be arriving on the scene very shortly to try to retrieve those black boxes when the scene cools down and get a better idea of what happened.

But the plane just seemed to be on a routine approach to -- to Runway 23 there at Buffalo Niagara and suddenly fell out of the sky.

So did you talk to anybody on the ground who saw it come in?

SCULL: I did not talk to anybody. And it didn't appear to me that the weather we had -- you know, we had some rough weather earlier today and that it calmed down a bit. I did not get to talk to anybody, because as you can imagine, this is a very small community and to have a national story like this, you know, you can plan and train for it and then when it actually happens, you know, it's a different story.

But I will tell you this, if you ask me if I'm surprised that this has happened, I'm going to tell you no.

ROBERTS: Why is that?

SCULL: My house sits right where the flight plane is and once darkness occurs every night, the planes get lower and lower and lower and lower, where they're just -- they're not too far atop -- above the top of the tress. And I've discussed it with neighbors out here. And I'm not surprised. I'm not surprised.

I've run through, in my mind, hundreds of times, if and when this happens, how I'm going to handle it.


And so how are you handling it?

SCULL: Well, you know, your news instincts have to kick in. And, you know, I got back home, I filed my images. We have another staff photographer that lives right nearby. He went and took over that scene. And from there, I went to the airport to get the family members that were -- were coming to the airport.


Did you talk with any of them, Harry?

SCULL: I did not talk to them. The reporter did.


SCULL: And I don't know if you've reported on this or not, but unfortunately there was a widow of a 9/11 -- a person who passed away on 9/11. She was coming home to celebrate his 58th birthday with his family and she perished on the plane.

ROBERTS: Yes. We have actually reported that this morning, Beverly Eckert.

SCULL: Yes. I heard...

ROBERTS: We actually had her...

SCULL: ...the story at the airport.

ROBERTS: We actually had her on the "AMERICAN MORNING" program back in 2003.

But, I mean, can you describe it -- you didn't talk to any of the family members but can you describe the scene there for us, Harry, at the Buffalo airport?

SCULL: Shock. Shock. Shock. You know, and it -- you know, this happening and it's 10:20 at night, most people are in bed for the night. And, you know, I'm sure they got awokened. And, you know, they did the best they could, you know, getting over there.

And then they -- they escorted the family members out of the back of the airport and have taken them to the Cheektowaga Senior Center to -- to be briefed.

ROBERTS: As you mentioned, Harry, Clarence Centre a fairly small town. You know, a lot of times in a small town, you get to know your neighbors. We understand that the house that this aircraft landed on was occupied by an elderly couple. Apparently their adult daughter was there visiting, as well.

Do you happen to know those people?



SCULL: Not by name. It's a -- Clarence Centre is a lot of -- it's a newer, growing area. But where this took place, this is -- you know, these -- these are the homes that established this community many, many years ago.

ROBERTS: So what impact is this having on the community?

SCULL: At this point, I don't know, but it's got to be devastating. I mean this is -- you know, this is something that will be with us forever.


SCULL: I mean, you know, there's no time that you're going to drive by there and never ever forget what happened.

ROBERTS: Harry Scull, Jr. , a photographer with "The Buffalo News". Thanks for joining us this morning and sharing your thoughts.

We really appreciate it, Larry.

SCULL: Thank you so much.

CHETRY: And as we've been telling you this morning, that doomed commuter plane was a Continental Connection flight. It was Number 3407 operated by Colgan Air. And this morning we're learning more about the safety of the aircraft -- the safety record of those types of aircraft.

Jason Carroll is following that part of the story for us.

And Jason, also, just to update viewers, in about 30 minutes, NTSB is going to be arriving on the scene there. So maybe we'll be getting some more details after that, as well.


In the meantime, we're trying to gather as much information as we can on this, Kiran.

The plane was a Bombardier Q400 Dash 8 turboprop. In the aviation industry, the Q came to be known for the quiet engines. It's a 74-seat twin engine operated by Colgan Airways, a feeder 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 lot 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 plan, that crashed in Buffalo, record show the first flight of the turbo prop was in 2008. So Kiran this was a new plane. This type of plan also has a history of having issues with fuel lines and landing gear. In fact, Scandinavian Airlines permanently grounded it's fleet of Dash-8's after three crash landing during a two-month period in 2007 that were blamed on the aircraft's landing gear.

But the pilots on board the Buffalo flight as you heard from many of our aviation experts did not indicate there was any sort of problem upon approach. Of course, that doesn't mean there wasn't a problem. The NTSB as you said is going to be the one sorting all of these out. The only recognizable piece left of the plane seems to be a chunk of the tail.

NTSB investigators will be looking for every piece of the plane to try to reconstruct it as well as those black boxes. We'll try to get some more information. In the meantime, Kiran, it's just too early to tell, even to suggest what happened here.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Jason Carroll following those details for us this morning. Thanks. We'll check in with you a little bit later. If you're just joining us. It is 31 minutes past the hour. 5:31 here in New York and we're following breaking news, tragic news this morning, the crash of a Continental Airlines commuter plane into a suburban Buffalo, New York home. It's the town of Clarence Center and authorities say that 49 people are dead, all 44 passengers on the plane, four crew members on that plane and one person, an elderly man in his home when the plane made, what is described by witnesses and emergency crews as a direct hit on one house. 5,000 pounds of jet fuel just burning there.

The Continental connection 3407 went down just after 10:00 last night. Icy conditions, some snow, some slush reported in the area, not unusual though, of course from Buffalo, New York, especially in February. One witness though said the impact felt like a mini earthquake. That flight was headed from Newark, New Jersey to Buffalo-Niagara International Airport. And we've had a chance this morning to hear a lot of those radio transmissions between air traffic controllers and the flight crew.

Air traffic controllers lost communication with that aircraft when it was just about five miles away from landing at the airport. The Continental commuter flight was operated by Colgan Air. The aircraft was a Bombardier Dash-8 Q400, a 74-seat turbo prop. As Jason just told us the plane with a pretty substantial safety record in the past. There are new images just moments after that plane exploded and they've been coming to us all morning with our I-reporters on the scene and has been feeding them to us.

One of them is from Anthony Trigilio and you can see the huge black smoke coming up from this blaze. Trigilio says that he heard the crash. He felt his home shake and that's when he ran out to try and capture what was going on. Firefighters at that time were focused on securing the scene and of course preventing the aircraft fuel from exploding.

Again, we were told that there were nine volunteer firefighters, firefighting departments that responded also with the help of four to five backup crews from the surrounding areas that they got there quickly, just saw how hot the flames were burning and felt there was no way that they could find survivors and of course, their worst fears realized. There were no survivors, not any in the plane and of course, one man losing his life on the ground when that plane hit a home.

So again, we're following all the latest developments for you. If you have an I-report from the scene or are in that area and were able to capture anything that was going on at the time, send it to us, at I-report at And again, that last video that we saw was from somebody who is very close to where that happened. Mr. Trigilio was able to capture some of those images when it first happened and we saw just how ferocious those flames were burning. And they say for four to six hours, even from now, it's still going to be a hot sight.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, they don't think they'll be able to start the investigation until at least noon today and we heard from Harry Scalbuffalo(ph), a news photographer as well who said that he managed to get off a couple of shots when he got to the scene. He lives just a short distance away but he said the fire was so hot. He just had to get out of there. You know, of course, plenty that we still don't know about what may have contributed to this crash, including what role that the weather conditions may have played.

We have been playing for you the communication tape and the communications between the approach control there in Buffalo and the flight 3407. It doesn't sound like there's anything wrong but apparently further down in tape, according to the "Associated Press," and we'll take a listen to this ourselves, a couple of other pilots do report that they were picking some icing from about 20 miles south of the airport as they were entering the pattern to land on runway 23. So perhaps icing may have been a contributing factor, can't say that at this point though.

Rob Marciano is tracking the weather for us. Rob, what was it like in the area last night, about 10:00 when this plane was coming in for a landing.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN, METEOROLOGIST: Well, very wintry. Both at the surface and aloft where the plane was flying. No surprise that if there were reports at some other pilots that maybe there are some accumulation of ice or rime ice in spots. Again, whether that had a factor to do with this crash, we don't know yet but I can tell you this. The weather didn't help.

Temperature readings of 33 degrees at the surface, at the Buffalo Airport around 10:00 last night. Visibilities were three miles, it's not bad but it's not necessarily good. The ceiling heights were at 2,000 feet so basically, these guys wouldn't see the runaway until they got below 2,000 feet and then they will be limited to three miles of visibility. The winds were gusting at 17, southwesterly at 17 miles an hour, gusting to 25.

All right. Take a look at the radar here. it shows you what kind of precip was heading to the area between 8:00 last night and around midnight. And then the Buffalo area here showing you what kind of winds we were looking at. Basically, the west and southwest winds. Most of the precipitation, you can see in the last few frames goes from being a mixture of blue, pink and white which indicates that they have anywhere from you know, freezing rains or snow, it's all snow by the time 1:00 came around

So the atmosphere was actually in transition from going from a warm state into a colder state and the vertical profile of the atmosphere in any case were temperatures were pretty close to freezing and then slowly dropped from freezing as you went higher in altitude. So typically a more standard atmosphere would drop fairly rapidly as you went higher in the sky but as this front was coming through, you go from cold at the surface and the cold typically goes a little bit more vertical with time. All right. Let's give you an idea of what we're talking about as far as where this was.

We'll do a little Google earth and zoom in to the Buffalo area. Lake Eerie to the west of Buffalo there and the crash site of about five to seven miles, northeast, there in Clarence center. Zooming into that neighborhood as mentioned, fairly populated area there with the tightly knit community.

The runaway these guys were trying to land on was 220. So that means they were trying to land southwesterly. That's good with the southwest wind and regardless of how strong it is as long as you're heading into it directly and you shouldn't have too much of a problem with that. So wind should not have been an issue.

Here's a current radar. Things are beginning to taper off the precipitation shield is now moving a little bit further to the south. Lake effect snows at one point typically start to turn off in Lake Eerie this time of year, not the entire lake is frozen over but a good chunk of it typically by mid February is frozen over. Lake Ontario would be a higher probability of seeing more lake enhancements. So we don't expect to see much more in the way of snowfall. By the time sun up comes, things will begin to taper off. So that's the weather round up here, not a good situation for the weather but it certainly could have been a whole lot worse. John.

ROBERTS: Rob, thanks very much. We'll keep checking back with you this morning. Joining us on the telephone now is New York congressman Chris Lee. The plane went down in his district, it's the 26th district. Congressman, I know that you're about to get on a flight, about an hour and a half to make your way out there. Let me ask you your thoughts this morning if I could.

REP. CHRIS LEE, NEW YORK: Well, it's a very extremely sad day and a sad week for western New York in general. Because yesterday I spoke on the House floor because we have private first class who was killed in Iraq and we just heard that lost and then just o have this devastating event that occurred yesterday actually in the town where I live is just very disheartening. But what my mind raises my spirit is the fact the I'm proud of the people that we have in our community. You know, who ran to respond to this scene without regard to their own lives, to try to help any potential survivors but (inaudible) and trying to get back so I can try to do whatever I can to support the families that have lost a loved one.

ROBERTS: Right. And you know, obviously as a congressman, you'll be spending an awful lot of time in your district. You live just a couple of miles away from the crash site. Did you happen to know the folks who occupy the home when the plane came down.

LEE: No, I didn't. I know the area very well. There is a coffee shop right near there that I frequent. And it's just - the planes are full of regular to (inaudible) close to where we live too. So it's something that you never ever imagine that were occurring that that this happen. It's just, it's shocking and it's saddening to have this happen in my district or anywhere in the country.


LEE: It's just a horrible, horrible thing.

ROBERTS: Yes. It's been more -

LEE: Our people within our district is trying to go and show up the least sites and try to be a support to the families.

ROBERTS: Yes, we become sort of immune to the idea of air tragedies. It's been more than two years, two and a half years since the last fatal crash in the United States. That was on August 27th, 2006. Of course, we thought we had a disaster when U.S. Airways 1549 ditched in the Hudson River and we know how amazingly that turned out but you know, Congressman we talked to a neighbor of yours and you may or may not know him, Harry (Skul), Jr. is a photographer of the "Buffalo News," he lives right along the flight path, probably close to where you do and he says that you know, he's gotten increasingly worried that when they're landing on runaway 23, Clarence Center does come right into the approach pattern and he says at night it sounds like the planes are getting lower and lower. Have you heard any complaints from your constituents that they have concerns about that landing pattern?

LEE: No. Obviously, it will sort of re-looked at for now but I've never heard of any complaints, just an unfortunate tragedy because I believe that this is the first plane accident in Buffalo's history, if I'm not mistaken. And it's just that these types of things is just devastating for a community. So I'm fortunate enough to be able to get a flight back and looking forward to doing what we can do to comfort the families there.

ROBERTS: Well, I'm sure that we'll be catching up with you a little bit later on today. Congressman Chris Lee from the 26th congressional district. Thanks for being with us this morning. We'll let you get in your flight and let you get up there up to Buffalo. Thanks.

LEE: Thank you.

CHETRY: All right. We are showing a few moments ago these new images that we have, the moments after this plane exploded into that home in Clarence Center and we have this video from our I-reporter Anthony Trigilio. He joins us on the phone right now as well.

Anthony, thanks for being with us this morning.


CHETRY: So you live about a minute drive away from where this happened. Tell us what is going on as you were able to capture the flames. These ferocious flames after that plane hit this home.

TRIGILIO: Basically what happened was I was in my computer and I heard the crash. I didn't realized it was a crash at first. It didn't even really sound that frightening from a distance to my house. But specially with my music playing in the background. But nonetheless, my mom brought me to the attention of the sky being really red and blazing. So I had decided to grab my camcorder. I got to my car and I drove over there to find out what was going on.

CHETRY: All right. You're 19 years old, right?

TRIGILIO: Correct. CHETRY: So it took you about a minute to get to the scene and what did you see when you got there. What was going on? Did people know at the time that this was clearly a big plane crash.

TRIGILIO: It seemed that way. What happened was I heard about a block down the road and on my way walking there, I saw a lot of people. Most of them seem to be really upset. A lot of people were walking around. I saw a lot of fire trucks and firemen. I asked a few people what's going on and one person said that they thought that there was a plane crash. That's when I found out.

CHETRY: They talked about 5,000 pounds of fuel that is on board this plane burning. What did it feel like and what did it smell like to be there.

TRIGILIO: As I had gotten closer, you'll kind of feel the heat and you can certainly smell that something was burning and it was really chaotic. It was really hectic.

You couldn't really pinpoint a specific feeling just because it was cold. It was starting to snow. It was slushy. It was frantic. You know, there were so many people and it was pretty chaotic. We also hear that from the emergency officials that the only recognizable part of the plane after the fire is the tail and they had nine volunteer fire departments and others in the area helping respond to that scene. Did you see any part of the plane?

TRIGILIO: I did not. Actually, at the time that I had arrived at the scene, there was nothing but a fireball that I couldn't really take out any specific part.

CHETRY: You live in the area and we had others who live in the area. In fact, one of our other callers that we spoke to a few moments ago talked about feeling that this was inevitable. This was bound to happen because of how close the plane fly and how your town is in the flight pattern of landing at Buffalo-Niagara. Did you ever feel that way?

TRIGILIO: To be honest, I mean, I live here for that something close to eight years and I've seen planes ever since the first day I've moved here, come over and I would have never thought that any one of them would have crashed. I guess, now I (inaudible)

CHETRY: And as we just heard from your local congressman, he says he believes this is the first time this has ever happened. You are going to have to think twice now or do you think this is just a freak situation, an unfortunate accident that probably will not be repeated.

TRIGILIO: It is a freak situation but then again, I mean, there's been a lot of crashes it seems lately and now had just been keeping at the back (inaudible)

CHETRY: Anthony Trigilio, one of our first I-reporters to bring us these pictures moments after the crash happened from the scene. Thanks for being with us this morning. If you were in the area and if you have nay I-reports, any pictures, anything, we'd love to get a chance to share them with our viewers so they can get a better idea of exactly what this was like when this tragedy unfolded last night. I- is where you go to get more information and to send us any pictures or video.

ROBERTS: Updating you now on the news of the fatal plane crash just outside of Buffalo, New York. Authorities confirmed that there are no survivors. In all, 49 lives were lost, 48 passengers and crew. There were four crew members, 44 passengers and one person in the house on the ground that the plane slammed into. The Continental flight 3407 crashed around 10:20 p.m. last night in the town of Clarence Center, just a few minutes before it was to land. There were only six miles away from the end of the runaway.

Authorities are investigating if weather was a factor. Officials say there was a mix of snow and sleet falling and a light fog as well. And this morning, so many tragedies, so many personal story. CNN's Alina Cho has been collecting all morning and she joins us now.

Good morning, Alina.

ALINA CHO, CNN, CORRESPONDENT: John, good morning to you. You know, one family member said this is something you see on television. It's not something that happens to your own family but it is true that 49 people died. 49 families are mourning today. Each of the story is heartbreaking. Some are not only sad, they are frankly shocking. According to the "Buffalo News," one of the women on the plane was Beverly Eckert.

You've been hearing about her if you've been watching our coverage. She was a 9/11 widow who lost her husband in the World Trade Center. She was actually traveling to Buffalo to what was supposed to be a celebration of what would have been her husband's 58th birthday. In fact, she had planned to take part in the presentation of a scholarship award that she established in her husband's honor. Family members told the "Buffalo News," we know that she was on that plane and now she's with him.

Then there's the story of Alise Kausner, also a passenger on flight 3407. Her brother, Chris, first heard the news on the radio. He called his parents and then he talked to reporters. Take a listen.


CHRIS KAUSNER, SISTER ON LANE: My parents are on vacation in Florida, and I had to call down there and tell my father what was going on. And 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've 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 was not the case.

Right now, I'm thinking the worse 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.


CHO: It is so tough to listen to that. you know, dozens of eyewitness accounts coming in as well. Take a listen to a group of friends. They were just hanging out when they heard the plane outside their window.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were in his room and we heard it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were relaxing in my room.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We heard the plane come in, real loud. I thought it was getting right from my house and we heard it explode and my whole room shook.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we look out the window.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Saw some huge red like.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A huge plume of red.


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


CHO: What people in the area saw was a fireball by all accounts. What I felt like, one said a mini earthquake and then of course, there's the story of the woman who almost got on that flight. Her name is Suzy Reinhardt. She travels from Newark, New Jersey to Buffalo, New York every single Thursday. Her flight was actually late and for a second thought about getting on flight 3407 and then at the last minute for whatever reason, she decided, John, not to get on that flight. She says that she got off the plane, got her bags and it was late she says and looking back she says she remembers seeing all of the people waiting at 11:00 at night, waiting for the people on flight 3407. The plane, of course, that we now know never came into the airport.

ROBERTS: How many times have you heard that story. You know, a person who says, maybe I should take that flight, oh, maybe not. And then they tell the tale afterwards.

CHO: Really, the ultimate close call.

ROBERTS: Tragic, tragic, tragic incident of what happened for those 49 people. Alina Cho, thanks so much.

CHETRY: Right now, we're coming up on 10 minutes until 6:00 here in New York. And we're following breaking news.

If you're just joining us this is a special edition of AMERICAN MORNING. We're following the crash of the Continental Airlines commuter plane into a house in suburban Buffalo, New York, the town of Clarence Center. Authorities are telling us that 49 people are dead. There were 44 passengers on that plane and four crew. They all perished as well as one person on the ground. We're being told it was an elderly man who is in the home when that plane hit it.

Continental connection flight 3407 went down just after 10:00 last night. We are getting reports that there were icy conditions. In fact, at least two pilots were heard after this crash saying that they've been picking up ice on their wings since about 20 miles south of the airport but again, we don't know if ice played a role in the crash of 3407.

It did crash into a house in Clarence Center. Witnesses describing that impact like a mini earthquake. These are I-report pictures that are coming into us. The people who ran out of their homes after hearing that sound and smelling the smoke in the air and the fumes and seeing those flames, running out and capturing these pictures.

The flight was headed from Newark, New Jersey to Buffalo, Niagara International Airport when it went down about five miles before the airport. Air traffic controllers did lose communication with the aircraft when it was about five miles away. That commuter flight was operated by Colgan Air and the aircraft a Bombardier Dash 8 Q400. This is a 74-seat turbo prop plane.

And joining us now with more on this is John Lucich. He is a licensed commercial pilot, flew for years, flew hundreds of flights into and out of this airport as well. And this is a new piece of information that we're getting, John, because we're talking earlier whether or not, whether it played any factor in this that at least two pilots after this crash, in other flights talked about picking ice on their wings. Does that shed any new light on what may have happened here?

JOHN LUCICH, LICENSED COMMERCIAL PILOT: Yes, it does because it goes to the fact that icing might have played a part in this. What happens is ice builds up on the six blades. Ice builds up on the leading edge of the airplane. Ice builds up on the control surfaces. And over a time, more and more it destroys the lift. It deforms the wings. It destroys the lift and that component of lift just goes away and you come down and that could play into why do people saw this airplane coming down.

Now what the photographer said before, that's just a typical response from people who -

ROBERTS: The photographer said and this was Harry Skul(Ph) from the "Buffalo News" that said that he and his neighbors are getting more and more worried about the approach pattern for runway 23 there at Buffalo Airport because it sounds like as night falls, the planes get lower and lower and lower. So pick up from there.

LUCICH: Right. That's a typical response from somebody who lives in an airport traffic area. There's no doubt about it. Your risk is increased when you live within the traffic pattern because of potential accidents. Accidents will happen and more often than not, at the airport, typically take off and landing, specifically on takeoff, it's right at the first power change but when it comes down to it. This airplane was on a low approach below the glide slope and that's what cause it to hit the house. Something happened to this airplane to bring it out of the sky.

CHETRY: So when he says that he feels that flights are getting lower and lower, is that what just a later person, you know, the perception of us who aren't familiar with aviation or do they fly lower at night?

LUCICH: No they wouldn't fly lower at night. In fact, just the opposite. If some airplanes are going to fly lower, then they fly lower during the day when they can see the obstacles. They wouldn't fly lower at night.

ROBERTS: Noise tends to be enhanced at night too.

LUCICH: Absolutely. And Anthony before said he lived there forever and it doesn't bother him. He never thought that it could happen and yet his guy had the (inaudible). I bet you if you look at it, he hadn't lived there forever and he's new or they recently since he's been there, changed the traffic pattern, now the airplanes are flying over his house, which does happen from time to time.

ROBERTS: I think we should mention too for folks at home who are watching and maybe a little confused. We are calling this plane a Bombardier Dash 8 because it was built in Canada. Bombardier is the pronunciation in Canada after Armand Bombardier who created the company back in 1964 that originally was building snow mobiles. Here in the Unites States it's also known as a Bombardier but we're calling it Bombardier this morning. just the way I grew up calling it -

CHETRY: Why people correcting you?

ROBERTS: No. they were saying which is it Bombardier, Bombardier.

CHETRY: Right.

ROBERTS: But let me ask you this question about the icing because there as no indication in the initial communications that we heard before that abrupt end that there was any kind of problem with icing and yet in subsequent communications, further along in this air traffic control tape that we have a copy of. There are at least a couple of pilots who say we have been picking up ice and we have been picking up ice since about 20 miles south of the airport. We're not going to play that part of the tape just yet. We're just getting that cut but does that suggest that maybe icing was becoming a problem that hadn't been reported and maybe this plane picked up some ice and the pilots didn't really know about it because there hadn't been any reports of it.

LUCICH: Specially at night, icing can sneak up on you. There's no doubt about it. OK. Let's talked about that Indiana aircraft that we talked about now several years ago.

ROBERTS: This is just to set the stage because it was a long time ago, we mentioned that it was an American eagle flight. It was an ATR-70 went down in the farmlands of Indiana after they picked up a bunch of ice, flying through freezing rain. Basically, it just rolled over and crashed.

LUCICH: Right. And you know several years ago when it first happened, I listened to those transmissions in what was going on. And you know, every time I hear one of these things, as a pilot, it send goose bumps up my back. There's no doubt about it.

Here's a guy who is just flying with us and said what was that? And then all of a sudden losses control of the airplane. You know, it can happen that quick. Absolutely.

CHETRY: 15 years ago, we made advances in - I mean, what determines whether this happens to one plan and doesn't to the dozen or hundreds of others that landed in these same conditions at the same airport.

LUCICH: All these aircraft that we're talking about had de-icing equipment on it. So when all of a sudden it comes down to the pilot. Do they notice that the icing is there and do they realize how much of a problem it is.

ROBERTS: Let me just interrupt if I could, John, because we got Chris Collins. He's the Erie county executive on the phone with us. And we know that you have Chris have been busy all night long. You got the call late last night. You held a press conference about two hours ago now. Gave us a lot of good information. What's the latest on the situation on the ground there, if you could, Chris.

CHRIS COLLINS, ERIE COUNTY EXECUTIVE: John, at this point in time, the area has been secured and we have declared a limited state of emergency including a no fly zone so that the area stays secure. We're keeping people away. We're waiting for the area basically to cool down so the NTSB investigators can go on site and that hopefully by noon today, we can start by removal of bodies from the crash site.

So at this point in time, it is between the sheriff and state police to secure. There are firefighters still on the scene but other than that there is no activity.

ROBERTS: Yes, actually we have a camera crew at Reagan National Airport where the NTSB team are expected to depart in probably a little less than three minutes or so. So they should be on their way up to you very shortly.

In terms of the impact on the community, you know, we talked with Harry Skul, Jr. who is a photographer for the "Buffalo News," and who lives in the area. We also talked to Congressman Chris Lee who lives in the town as you well know, what do you say. I don't know it's been all night that many people are sleeping. Many people probably are not sleeping as a result of what happened last night but what is the impact on the community thus far?

COLLINS: Well I mean the community certainly is in shock. We all know there hasn't been a crash like a couple of years in the United States and we had them come down in our small community, town of Clarence is about 30,000 residents and obviously these folks coming from Newark to Buffalo would live in various parts of Buffalo. We have not released their names and we want to make sure the families are notified before we do that.

But we're a very close knit community. Buffalo is known as the city of good neighbors for a reason. We will rally behind these families. We have counselors with them right now and the Buffalonians do stand together and we will in this instance as tragic as this is. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and will remain so.

ROBERTS: Did you, Chris, know the people who lived in the house that the plane came down on top of.

COLLINS: No, I did not. I drive by it all the time but no I'm a resident of Clarence but did not know those individuals.

ROBERTS: Yes. I understand that it was an elderly couple, a man, his wife and their daughter. The wife and the daughter got out. The man unfortunately did not escape, what sort of help will you be lending to the NTSB team when they get there.

COLLINS: Well, whatever help they need, we will be providing. We got the sheriff's helicopter standing by, you know, to fly over the scene as needed. The NTSB are fairly independent folks. We have sheriff's deputy, state police available to assist as needed, certainly our medical examiner. So the FBI is on site as well. So whatever they need, we'll be at their disposal and we will be supporting them.

ROBERTS: Well, Chris, our thoughts and prayers go out to you this morning. It's such an unbelievable tragedy there. We know the good work that you're all doing and the first responders who went above and beyond the call of duty as well.

Chris Collins, the Erie County executive. Thanks for being with us this morning.