Plane Crash Death Toll Stands At 50

CLARENCE CENTER, N.Y. (February 13, 2009)-Investigators are now on the scene beginning to comb through the wreckage of a fiery commuter plane crash that killed 49 people onboard and another person on the ground.

Continental flight 3407 went down at 9:20 p.m. CST in a residential neighborhood of Clarence Center, N.Y., about 15 miles northeast of Buffalo.

The 74-seat Q400 Bombardier aircraft took off from Newark, N.J., flew through light snow and fog and was making its approach to the Buffalo-Niagara International Airport when it crashed; it was scheduled to land at 9:25 p.m. CST.

Doug Hartmayer, a spokesman for the authority that operates the Buffalo airport, says "the plane simply dropped off the radar screen."

Air traffic control immediately radioed for help shortly after losing contact with the pilot.

Bob Dworak, who lives less than a mile from where a commuter plane hit the house, says the "whole sky was lit up orange."

Dworak says residents of the neighborhood near the airport are used to planes rumbling overhead however one sounded louder than usual Thursday night, sputtering and making odd noises.

There were "50 to 100 foot flames and a pile of rubble," said Dworak.

Erie County Executive Chris Collins described the fiery crash site as "surreal" with the tail of the craft is still sticking out of the ground, hours after it slammed into a home about ten miles from the Buffalo airport.

The plane was carrying around 5,000 pounds of jet fuel that apparently exploded upon impact.

Collins says firefighters got as close to the plane as they could and shouted, "to see if there were any survivors."

Colgan Air operated the Q400 Bombardier.

Colgan issued a statement saying it too was sending an accident response team and that it would 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.

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