4:45 am
Fri February 13, 2009

Federal Investigators Arrive to Probe Crash

Buffalo, NY – A commuter plane coming in for a landing at Buffalo Niagara International Airport last night crashed into a house in a fiery explosion that killed all 49 people on board and one person on the ground. Representatives from the National Transportation Safety Board arrived here this morning to investigate the crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407.

A total of 14 investigators will be on the scene in the coming days. The plane plummeted into a house about five miles from the airport around 10:20 p.m. The airplane operated by Colgan Air was flying from Newark Liberty International Airport.

There is tight security surrounding the scene of the crash. The fire continues to burn. Apparently, crews are trying to cap a natural gas line. The NTSB's Steve Chealander said investigators won't be able to begin their probe until the site cools down. He did say they were being allowed to try and retrieve the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder. Both devices were found and will be sent to Washington for analysis.

The 74-seat Q-400 Bombardier aircraft, operated by Colgan Air, was flying from New Jersey to Buffalo Niagara International Airport in light snow and fog. Other members of the crew include the pilot, Captain Marvin Reslow, flight attendants Matilda Quintero and Donna Prisco and an off-duty pilot, Captain Joseph Zuffoletto. Colgan issued a statement saying it too was sending an accident response team and will try to assist the families of the victims. The airline is setting up a hotline for information and is working to identify those on the aircraft. The number is 1-800-621-3263.

The identities of the residents of the destroyed home on Long Street have been released. Killed in the crash was 61-year-old Doug Wielinski. Taken to Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital were 57-year-old Karen Wielinski and her 22-year-old daughter Jill. Their injuries are not believed to be life threatening.

The widow of a 9/11 victim from the Buffalo area is believed to have died aboard the Continental Express plane that crashed in Clarence last night. Beverly Eckert was traveling to Buffalo for a weekend celebration honoring her late husband. Sean Rooney lost his life in the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center in 2001. Eckert was planning to attend a presentation of a scholarship award in her husband's name at Canisius High School.

Prior to today, the worst air disaster at Buffalo Niagara International Airport was in 1972 when a private plane crashed into a home on Diane Drive in Cheektowaga, near the airport. That crash killed three people on the plane and three people on the ground.

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