The National Transportation Safety Board retrieved the flight data recorders—aka the "black boxes"—from Continental Flight 3407, which crashed just outside of Buffalo in Clarence Center, NY last night. All 49 passengers and crew members were killed, as was one person on the ground, whose home was leveled by the commuter plane (an apparently new Bombardier Q400). Governor Paterson visited the crash site and said, "We're all connected, and we find out how connected we are on days like this." This was the first commercial American airline accident with fatalities since August 2006.
The plane took off from Newark Airport and was scheduled to land in Buffalo around 10:45 p.m. (including delays), but the plane crashed at around 10:20 p.m. 20 miles northeast of Buffalo. While the NTSB would not give a cause for the crash, NTSB member Steven Chealander shared some details, "The crew discussed significant ice buildup, ice on the windshield and leading edge of the wings." From the NY Times:
One minute before the end of the tapes, “the landing gear were placed down,” Mr. Chealander said. “Twenty seconds later, the flaps were selected to 15,” Mr. Chealander said, referring to a position on the flaps to help slow the airplane’s speed for landing.
“The flight director shows a series of severe pitch and roll excursions within seconds of the 15-flap command” coming down,” the safety board member said. “After that, the crew attempted to raise the gear and flaps just before the end of the recording.”
Air traffic control had been in contact with the plane, but then, as Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority spokesman Doug Hartmayer told reporters, "The plane simply dropped off the radar screen."
The victim on the ground was 61-year-old Douglas C. Wielinski. His wife and daughter escaped the house with minor injuries. A resident who was driving at the time told the Buffalo News, "It was a bad, bad impact. It was hot, and the explosion was massive. I couldn't see anyone surviving it."
One of the victims was Beverly Eckhart, a Stamford resident who became an advocate for the families of September 11, 2001 victims. Her husband Sean Rooney, a Buffalo native, was killed at the World Trade Center, and she was flying to Buffalo to celebrate what would have been his 58th birthday as well as give a scholarship in his name to a high school student. Rep. Carolyn Maloney worked with Eckhart, who was co-chairwoman of the 9/11 Family Steering Committee, “My thoughts and prayers are with her family and the thousands of Americans whose lives she touched... Beverly turned her grief at the loss of her husband into action that helped make our country a safer place, and for that all Americans owe her a debt of gratitude.”