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US: 49 killed in New York plane crash: officials

13 Feb 2009 6:40 PM

NEW YORK, Feb 13 AFP - All 48 passengers and crew, plus one person on the ground, were killed when a plane crashed into a house outside Buffalo, New York on Thursday and burst into flames, officials said.

State police spokeswoman Rebecca Gibbons told US media that there were 48 people on the plane and "there were no survivors". A county official had earlier confirmed one fatality on the ground.

An Erie County official said Continental Airlines flight 3407 crashed at 10.20pm (1420 AEDT) in the town of Clarence Center, New York, about five minutes before it was due to land at the Buffalo airport.

The plane was a Bombardier Dash 8 Q400, operated by Virginia-based Colgan Air.

"One structure has been seriously damaged and the aircraft is currently still burning -- somewhat under control," David Bissonette, emergency coordinator in Clarence Center told reporters. "We have multiple fatalities. The scene is secured by the state police and a long-term investigation is imminent."

One county official said he was not aware of any reports of trouble from the plane.

"I was told the plane simply dropped off the radar screen," the official said.

US media showed footage of the smoking wreckage in the centre of a residential neighbourhood.

Erie County Executive Chris Collins told CNN the plane was carrying 2,630kg of jet fuel and burst into a fireball on impact.

"The tail of the plane is sticking out of the ground," he said. "Obviously, it exploded upon impact. So there was a lot of fire initially. It landed -- or it came down right next to the fire hall. So there were firemen on this scene within literally seconds of it going down.

"I can't say enough about what the firefighters did, rushing right in as you might expect they would -- a very heroic effort. But there were no survivors.

A man who gave his name only as Tony told a local television station that the plane flew right over his car, "nose down".

"Left wing was slightly down, pitched sideways, if you will," he said. "It was on a direct line down."

David Luce, who lives about 150 metres from the crash scene, told the Buffalo News he heard a huge explosion and saw flames 20 metres in the air.

"It sounded quite loud, and then the sound stopped," Luce said. "Then one or two seconds later, there was a thunderous explosion. I thought something hit our house. It shook our whole house.

"There was the initial boom, and then these cannon shots ... these loud secondary explosions, and they went on for about 10 minutes."

After a few minutes, Luce said he walked out to take a look at the wreckage and saw the house was destroyed.

"The house was already flattened. There was no house, just a pile of rubble and still burning," he said.