Continental Crash claims 50 Lives

February 13, 2009
Abram I. Bohrer

A Continental Airlines flight crashed into a home in Clarence Thursday night leaving 50 people dead.

Authorities say the commuter plane was carrying 48 people: 44 passengers and four crew members. Another previously unaccounted passenger was also aboard. One person on the ground was also killed. Continental Airlines flight 3407 was operated by Colgan Air and had taken off from Newark, N.J.

Authorities say it was on its final approach to the Buffalo Niagara International Airport when it crashed into a house on Long Street in Clarence Center at about 10:20 p.m. Thursday. Clarence is northeast of Buffalo. Initial reports show that the pilot didn’t express concerns about anything being out of the ordinary before controllers lost contact with the aircraft.

Erie County Executive Chris Collins held a 4:00 a.m. press conference and calls the scene “surreal.” He says the aircraft apparently exploded on impact creating a massive fire with huge flames. The home is next to a firehouse so emergency personnel were quick to respond. Hundreds of rescue workers from dozens of local agencies responded.

Millard Fillmore Suburban, a Kaleida Health facility, is treating two female residents from Long Street where the plane crashed. They were transported by ambulance to the hospital at approximately 11:35 p.m., with non-life threatening injuries.

The crash site is not far from the town’s business district. The owners of The Perfect Gift, who also live in Clarence, said it sounded like the plane came right over their house, which is approximately two blocks from the crash site.

“It was very loud, like it was flying very low,” said Nick Tangelder, whose wife Deborah owns the retail store. He says the crash site is directly behind The Perfect Gift, about 150 yards away from the building.

Authorities say the plane crashed directly into a home on Long Street. “It’s incredible,” Tangelder said. “Those lots are only 60 feet wide.”