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Cause Of Buffalo, N.Y., Crash Being Probed

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel. Federal officials have listened to the cockpit voice recorder from a commuter plane that crashed outside Buffalo, New York, last night. National Transportation Safety Board Spokesman Steve Chealander says the recordings show the pilots were concerned about ice.

Mr. STEVE CHEALANDER (Spokesman, National Transportation Safety Board): The crew discussed significant ice build-up - ice on the windshield, and leading edge of the wings.

SIEGEL: Continental connection Flight 3407 slammed into a house; 49 people on the plane, and one person in that house, were killed. Eileen Buckley, of member station WBFO in Buffalo, has been talking with people in the neighborhood, and she has this report.

Ms. EILEEN Ms. BUCKLEY (Reporter, WBFO): Cathleen Dourg(ph) was at home in her Clarence Center, New York neighborhood last night around 10:20 when she heard a sputter and then a loud explosion.

Ms. CATHLEEN DOURG: We thought it could have been a car explosion. We had no -we never thought it was going to be a plane landing in Clarence Center. It's nothing that you would ever think would happened.

Ms. BUCKLEY: It was the sound of the plane nose diving into her neighbor's two-story frame house. The crash created a huge fireball that lit up the night skies.

Ms. DOURG: The fire was incredible. I mean, you could see it over the houses, and you could see this orange glow. The flames were intense. I thought it was going to burn the whole town. It looked that big. And I'm amazed at the job the fire department did, that it didn't spread.

Ms. BUCKLEY: Karen Wielinski(ph) and her 22-year-old daughter, Jill, managed to escape from the burning house. It is not known what happened to Wielinski's husband Doug. Dianne Trajilio(ph) and her son Anthony live just a couple of blocks from the Wielinskis. She was surprised by a strange sound. It was so loud, she thought it was right in front of her own home.

Ms. DIANNE TRAJILIO: I thought it was maybe a truck pulling around the cul-de-sac where I live. And then I heard the crash. So that's when I looked out, and I saw the orange fireball. And I ran in and grabbed my son. I said, Anthony, something major, major happened.

Ms. BUCKLEY: Anthony Trajilio(ph) grabbed his video camcorder and headed to the scene. He says the fire was so intense, no one could get very close.

Mr. ANTHONY TRAJILIO: There was a lot of firefighters who were just flushed next to the fire, and there was a lot of people kind of heading over there to see if they can try to help, a lot of volunteers.

Ms. BUCKLEY: Trajilio quickly ran back home to post his video on YouTube.

Mr. TRAJILIO: There was so many things to take in at once. I don't even think anybody really registered what was going on until much later after the crash.

Ms. BUCKLEY: It took nine fire companies hours to put out the blaze. Early this morning, white smoke could still be seen over the neighborhood. Twelve nearby homes were evacuated as much of the neighborhood was blocked off. But officials who visited the scene said the house was totally destroyed, and remnants of the plane's fuselage and tail could still be seen embedded in the rubble. People in Clarence say the town is a close-knit community of about 28,000 people. Said one local official, it's a tragedy beyond description.

For NPR News, I'm Eileen Buckley in Buffalo. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Eileen Buckley