Pilots saw 'significant ice' on wings before crash
The National Transportation Safety Board has analyzed the flight data and cockpit recorders of doomed Continental Connection Flight 3407 and said that the pilots saw "significant ice buildup" on the edge of the wings before the crash.
Fifty people, including one on the ground, died when the commercial airliner crashed into a home in suburban Buffalo late Thursday.
The NTSB said the landing gears were extended a minute before the crash and that data recorders showed the plane experienced "severe" pitch and roll seconds after the wings' flaps were extended.
NTSB spokesperson Steven Chealander said the pilots attempted to raise the landing gears and flaps seconds before the crash.
Several witnesses on the ground reported that the plane's engines sounded like they were going at full power, like in a takeoff.
Chealander stressed that nothing has been ruled out for the cause of the crash at this time.
He said the plane's automatic deicing systems were engaged.
The plane was descending for a landing in light snow and fog late Thursday and crashed about eight kilometres short of Buffalo-Niagara International Airport.
While nothing has been ruled out, ice problems seems to be at the forefront of the investigation.
"When there is a building of ice it can deform a wing and reduce the ability of the wing to maintain lift of the aircraft," CTV's John Vennavally-Rao said. "But of all this is just speculation right now."
Canadian among victims
A Canadian has been identified as one of the 50 victims of the crash.
Don McDonald, from Fort Erie, Ont., was one of 49 people on the Continental Connection Flight 3407 who was killed.
McDonald worked as a technical manager for Pharmetics, Inc., a Canadian pharmaceutical firm with offices in Fort Erie.
"He leaves behind a wife and a young daughter," CTV Toronto's Paul Bliss reported Friday.
The Canadian-made Q400 Bombardier, a 74-seater aircraft, went down around 10:20 p.m. Thursday.
The plane was operated by Colgan Air, a Manassas, Va.-based affiliate of Continental Airlines. Initial reports said 48 people were on board the plane and one was killed on the ground.
However, Colgan Air now says one off-duty pilot was also on board the aircraft, bringing the death toll up to 50.
"This is easily the saddest day in the history of our airline," Philip Trenary, CEO of Colgan Air said Friday.
At an afternoon press conference, N.Y. Gov. David Paterson said he met with the families of the victims on Friday.
"I saw a woman whose fiance was killed in the plane crash -- she has three little daughters," Paterson said.
Survivor describes plane hitting her home
Karen Wielinski told Buffalo radio station WBEN-AM that she was watching television when she heard a loud noise and in the next instant the ceiling was on top of her.
"I heard a noise, planes do go over our house, but this one just sounded really different, louder, and I thought to myself, 'you know, if that's a plane, its going to hit something,' and the next thing I knew, the ceiling was on me," she said Friday.
She managed to crawl towards a light and escape as fire circled around her. Her 22-year-old daughter, Jill, was at the opposite side of the house and escaped as well.
Unfortunately, her 61-year-old husband, Doug Wielinski, was in the middle of the house and has not been found.
Both women were released from hospital Friday after suffering minor injuries.
Black boxes found
Investigators recovered the two black boxes from the plane -- the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder Friday morning.
NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway said that the boxes were sent back to Washington for examination.
Mark Clitsome, director of the air investigation branch of the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, told CTV Newsnet Friday that TSB officials will be involved with the investigation because the plane and its engine were manufactured in Canada.
Clitsome said a team from Bombardier Aerospace and a team from Pratt & Whitney Canada, the engines' manufacturer, will also head to Buffalo today.
Additionally, Transport Canada has sent a minister's observer to go down, Clitsome said.
Details on crash
Flight 3407 departed from Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey and was preparing to land at Buffalo Niagara International Airport.
Prior to the crash, the pilot was communicating in a routine way with the controller, who told her to fly at 2,300 feet.
A minute later, the controller tried to contact the plane again but there was no response. The controller tried again to contact the pilot but, after receiving no response, he told an unidentified listener to contact authorities, according to recordings captured by LiveATC.net.
"You need to find if anything is on the ground," the controller said. "All I can tell you is the aircraft is over the marker (landing beacon), and we're not talking to them now."
Eyewitness Tony Tatro was driving home from the gym when he saw the plane in the sky.
"It was nose-down and it was tilted slightly to the left," Tatro told CTV's Canada AM on Friday
Bob Dworak, who lives close to the crash site, said the whole sky was lit up in orange.
"All the sudden, there was a big bang, and the house shook," Dworak said.
Another eyewitness said the plane was "sputtering" moments before the crash.
"It was real loud," the eyewitness said. "The next thing you know we heard it crash so we looked out the window and there was bright lights so we decided to run down here."
FBI spokesman Richard Kolko said there is "no indication of any security related event" behind the incident.
According to reports, the aircraft was flying in light snow, fog and 27 km/h winds. Experts suggest that icing or a mechanical failure may have caused the crash.
This is the first fatal crash of a commercial airliner in the United States since Aug. 27, 2006, when 49 people were killed after a Comair jetliner took off from a Lexington, Ky., runway that was too short.
Also Friday, U.S. President Barack Obama said "our hearts go out to the families and friends who lost loved ones."
With files from The Associated Press