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Homes spared as 50 die in plane inferno; Crash 'could have wiped out community'.

Byline: Matt Williams

AN AMERICAN commuter plane that crashed into a suburban home killing 50 people had the potential to "wipe out" an entire neighbourhood, emergency workers said last night.

The plane - an internal flight from Newark, New Jersey, to Buffalo, New York State - came down at around 10.20pm on Thursday (local time) in Clarence, a residential area five miles away from its airport destination.

All 49 of the passengers and crew members on board died as a result of the impact as did one of the occupants of the house that the plane crashed into.

But despite taking a direct hit, two people living in the property - a mother and daughter - escaped with minor injuries.

Police said it was "amazing" that only one house was affected.

It was the US's first fatal incident involving a commercial airliner for two-and-a-half years.

Among the dead was a widow of a victim of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre. Beverly Eckert had been travelling to Buffalo to celebrate what would have been her husband Sean Rooney's 58th birthday.

She had become one of the most visible faces of America's grief in the aftermath of 9/11 after telling how her husband had called to tell her how much he loved her just moments before his death.

Yesterday, air accident investigators arrived at the scene of the crash and recovered the aircraft's black box recorders in the hope that they might shed light on why the plane came down.

Early indications suggest that a build up of ice could have played a part.

Following the accident, at least two pilots were heard on air traffic control talking of having ice on their wings.

The problem can alter a plane's aerodynamics and interfere with lift and handling - it is a well known hazard for pilots. The passenger jet appeared to drop out of the sky with no warning.

Twelve homes were evacuated as firefighters battled the resulting fireball. The impact killed all 44 passengers, four active crew members and one off-duty flight staff on board the 74-seat Continental Connection Flight 3407. Those in the house who survived, Karen Wielinski, 57, and her 22-year-old daughter Jill - were taken to hospital for treatment for minor injuries.

Despite the death toll, emergency services said the accident could have been worse if the plane's descent had not been so steep. Dave Bissonette, an emergency control director in Clarence, said: "It is remarkable that it only took one house.

As devastating as it was, it could have easily wiped out an entire neighbourhood on a strafing run type of thing."

President Barack Obama said he was "deeply saddened" to hear of the cras


A PASSENGER plane from Amsterdam crash-landed at London City Airport last night, with no passengers suffering serious injury.

The 67 passengers and five crew on flight 8456 evacuated safely but two people were taken to hospital.

Fire crews were called to the airport just after 7.40pm when the four-engine aircraft had already been evacuated. A spokesman for British Airways said last night: "The nose wheel of a British Airways aircraft suffered a failure on landing at London City Airport this evening."

A London City Airport spokeswoman said 11 flights were being diverted.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) confirmed an investigation had begun.


DISASTER The scene where a plane crashed into a house in Clarence; VICTIM Beverly Eckert, a widow of the World Trade Centre attack.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Feb 14, 2009
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