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Follow the latest developments on the suburban Buffalo plane crash

Update, 9:02 p.m. -- We're signing off for the evening after 38 updates. Thanks to everyone for reading. BuffaloNews.com has had a record day, with some 855,000 visits and some 1.9 million page views. This blog received about 80,000 page views and more than 105 reader comments. Too bad it had to be under such tragic circumstances.

Keep checking BuffaloNews.com for continuing updates, and don't forget to pick up a print edition, starting with Saturday's wall to wall coverage, including a 10-page special section.

    -- Jim Heaney

Update, 8:43 p.m. -- Here's a list from the National Transportation Safety Board with details on all plane crashes since 1982.

Update, 8:39 p.m. -- The New York Times has a very informative topics page on plane crashes, including coverage of the crash here.

Update, 8:35 p.m. -- WLS-TV News reports that the crash of Flight 3470 is similar to a flight en route to Chicago that crashed in 1994. Includes a video report.

Update, 8:29 p.m.-- Newsday has this profile of 9-11 widow Beverly Eckert, who died in the crash.

Eckert, of Stamford, Conn., was among the 50 killed when Continental Connection Flight 3407 out of Newark crashed into a house. She was traveling to Buffalo to present a scholarship that she set up after her husband, Sean Rooney, died in the 2001 attacks.

"She continued to participate in the life of our school community" after her husband's death, school president John Knight said. "She did everything she could to take this tragic event of Sean's passing and have something positive come of it," Knight said. "She loved Canisius High School, and we loved her."

Update, 8:15 p.m. -- Saturday's Buffalo News will feature extensive coverage, including a 10-page special section, on the crash of Continental Flight 3407.

Here's the line-up of some of our major stories:

 Icing problems plagued the doomed plane, federal investigators find.

Federal Aviation Administration recommendations on de-icing planes were not followed.

Victims, many of them , ranged from musicians and business executives to college students and human rights activists.

Volunteer fire departments and other first responders handle the most-dire situation of their careers.

Grieving families and friends struggle to cope with the unthinkable.

The type of aircraft that crashed is a popular model with a good safety record.

Two young Irish dancing champions and their chaperons who were booked for the flight en route back from Killarney caught an earlier plane.

Columnist Donn Esmonde writes about the unfathomable grief encompassing a community that, with one unnatural disaster, suffered the loss of so many of its own.

The News also will profile those victims who have been identified, with other profiles to follow in ensuing days as information becomes available. 

Update, 7:51 p.m. -- Here's our latest main story on the crash.

Update, 7:48 p.m. -- Half of the 50 who died in the crash have been identified.

Update, 6:55 p.m. -- Two would-be passengers on Flight 6038 have bad weather and long lines to thank for being alive.

"It could have been me," David Becony said in an interview from his home in Springville, New York, as he watched television reports on the crash and its fiery aftermath. "My wife would have been with all those families" who had loved ones on the plane.

When he found out the plane he was to have taken had crashed, he called his wife, Marti, at their home outside Buffalo. "He broke down and I broke down," she said. "We just couldn't believe it."

Update, 6:36 p.m. -- As social-networking has grown in popularity in recent years, it’s no surprise that thousands of people have turned to Facebook to express their shock and grief over the crash of Flight 3407. A number of groups related to the crash have popped up on the site today. Most visitors to the groups have left messages of condolence, often because they have a personal connection to the tragedy. 

Googling “facebook” and “flight 3407” brings up one of the groups. You must be a Facebook member to join the group or leave a comment, but even non-members can read the messages left on the “wall” of the group. Facebook members can search for flight 3407 on the site and find numerous examples.

A thanks to reporter Steve Watson for his updates throughout the day on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Update, 6:15 p.m.-- Mark Sommer had about the most unenviable assignment of any reporter on the staff today, trying to speak to relatives of the victims. As Mark relates, it's unpleasant work, but necessary to provide readers with a full picture of the tragedy.

Here is his account of his day on the job:

I found myself at the Cheektowaga Senior Citizen Center Friday morning. An editor had sent me there to interview the family and friends of people who died in Flight 3407.

Interviewing people under such circumstances is never a pleasant assignment. I'm well aware of the need to respect people's privacy, and try hard not to come across as pushy or insensitive.

I have also found there are people who are grateful for the chance to share their story with the media and through us, the public at large.

When I approached the senior center, it was clear the Erie County Sheriff's Department and Cheektowaga Police Department would not let the media through. I took my chances, however, by
walking a less direct route, and managed to make it to the entrance. Although I wasn't going to be allowed in, I spoke with a clergy member who had been inside comforting people, and he shared a moving account of what it was like inside.

"Walking in there was like being in the valley of suffering," said Rev. Angel L. Gauthier, of Prince of Peace Christian Church in Buffalo. "I was sharing a thought with a family member who lost a grandson and he couldn't stop weeping. All I did was hug him and cry with him."

I then went to a nearby location where Gov. David Paterson was to hold a news conference. While waiting, I decided to return to the parking lot to see if there was anyone to talk to, but on the way saw an unguarded back entrance to the senior center, and walked in. I found it was unguarded for a good reason … everyone who had been there had just been bused to an Amherst hotel.

After asking a lot of political aides, I learned where that hotel was at the conclusion of the governor's news conference, and drove out there. The police had cordoned off the entrance here, too, so I parked in another area and walked across some marshy ground to enter the hotel.

I saw families and friends of those who died huddled quietly in small groups in a hospitality room, and saw many Continental employees in that room and a hallway who were mourning the loss of their colleagues who were among the 50 people who died.

Shortly after asking a couple if they would want to be interviewed, a Continental crew member asked for my identification. When I said I worked for The Buffalo News, he gave me a shove and told me to leave. He followed me to the door with another crew member, saying "What you're doing is sickening."

I'm aware that because of the sleazy, sensationalistic reporting that seems to be the lifeblood of cable television and the tabloids, it's easy to tar all of us who report with the same brush.

I knew what he was projecting on to me wasn't how I approached my job, but it wasn't the time or place to argue with him.

Update, 5:43 p.m. -- The events of the past 24 hours demonstrate how readers are increasingly turning to the Web for major breaking news.

As of this writing, more than 760,000 users have come to BuffaloNews.com, almost all looking for information about the crash. That's a one-day record for the site.

In a normal weekday, BuffaloNews.com can expect about 110,000 to 125,000 visits. 

Almost half a million readers came to our lead story; well over 100,000 were trying to find the names of victims. We've had almost 1.7 million page views thus far for the day.

Thousands of people with roots in Western New York were among those checking in, with many of them offering their thoughts and prayers on the Web site. More than 30,000 took time to visit this blog for information on the crash, and to post comments, generating some 70,000 page views.

Update, 5:27 p.m.-- More on what we're planning for Saturday's paper, and how we're going about it, via Charity Vogel:

"I will be looking at the "who" of the plane crash … giving an overview of the group of passengers who happened to be on board Flight No. 3407 Thursday night, from the obscure to the famous, the humble to the well-known. We're hoping to give readers a real picture of the variety of souls on board the plane in the moments before it crashed … and examine the great loss that their deaths represent, to families across Western New York and the nation.

"I'm using a number of tools to assemble this story: first-hand interviews with victims' families; feeds from a number of reporters working both inside and outside the News building; and compilation lists of the victims being culled by our staff from sources as varied as newspapers, websites, statements by family members and officials, and more."

Update, 5:15 p.m. -- Assorted reports, including this one from MSNBC, say the plane crew reported ice buildup on the aircraft before the crash.

The crew of Continental Connection Flight 3407 discussed a "significant" buildup of ice on the windshield and wings shortly before the commuter plane plunged out of the night sky and nose-dived into a suburban Buffalo house, federal investigators said Friday.

Update, 5:05 p.m.-- Clive Irving, senior consulting editor at Conde Nast Traveler who specializes in aviation, offers this take for The Daily Beast on what might have gone wrong with Flight 3407.

Writes Irving:

What urgently needs to be looked at is whether the basic configuration of all turboprop commuter planes, and particularly their flying characteristics in ice-making weather, leaves them unusually exposed to ice build-up on the wings and control surfaces.

Update, 5:00 p.m. -- The New York Times has a profile on Alison Des Forges, one of the crash victims. Des Forges, a Buffalo resident, was a giant in the human rights field.

Reported The Times:

Dr. Des Forges spent four years interviewing organizers and victims of the Rwandan genocide, in which she estimated that at least 500,000 people died. She testified before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, based in Arusha, Tanzania, and at trials in Belgium, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Canada. She also appeared on expert panels convened by the United Nations and what is now the African Union, as well as the French and Belgian legislatures and the United States Congress.

The MacArthur Foundation recognized her work with a $375,000 “genius” grant in 1999. Her book “Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda,” published that year, has been called a definitive account of the genocide.

“Her death is a devastating blow,” Kenneth Roth, the president of Human Rights Watch, wrote in an e-mail message Friday to the organization’s board of directors. “She epitomized the human rights activist — principled, dispassionate, committed to the truth and to using that truth to protect ordinary people.”

Update: 4:51 p.m. -- The crash in Clarence is the 10th in the United States since 1995 to involve fatalities. Here's a list of the nine others.

Update, 4:46 p.m. -- President Obama has offered his condolences to the family and friends of the crash victims.

A report from the Voice of America said:

President Obama said his thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends who lost loved ones in the crash, and with the emergency workers who responded to the disaster. "Tragic events such as these remind us of the fragility of life and the value of every single day," he said.

Update, 4:42 p.m.-- Here's the Google News search results for stories on the crash. Hit the "refresh" button when you use the link to get the latest updates.

Update, 4:30 p.m. -- The crash is big news worldwide. including the homepage of the Guardian out of Great Britain, arguably the globe's best newspaper Web site.

Update: 4:18 p.m. -- Miles O'Brien, who spent 17 years as CNN’s science, space, technology and environment correspondent, has posted a detailed blog post with his take on what might have gone wrong with the flight. 

Said O'Brien:

You have to wonder if Continental 3407 was flying on autopilot - carrying enough ice on its wings that its normal approach speed was simply too slow for it to stay in the air. So when it slowed down, it simply dropped out of the sky.

The post includes some interesting reader comments.

Update: 4:04 p.m.-- Here's some more insight into how The News is covering the crash, this from Mary Pasciak, a member of our investigative reporting team who is adept at computer-assisted reporting techniques:

"We've been tapping into a number of databases today to gather information about the victims of the crash. For local victims, one of our primary sources is what we call "Uniquery," an in-house collection of databases that the News uses to background people … everything from voter registration information and property records to public payrolls and campaign finance records.

"We also use a paid online database, Accurint. This sometimes gives us information such where a person worked, and who their neighbors and relatives were. We've also been able to find cell phone numbers for friends and relatives who we otherwise wouldn't have been able to track down.

"Other information sources also have proven helpful. We used a national database of pilots, for instance, to get information about the flight crew. We've searched electronic archives of newspapers across the country to compile information about a number of the victims.

"Social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace have plugged in some holes, too."

Update, 3:40 p.m. -- This diagram of the flight approach will make sense to you pilots, if no one else.

Update, 3:30 p.m. -- Here's the transcript of the conversation between the pilot and control tower.

Update: 2:59 p.m. -- This file from Jerry Zremski of our Washington bureau:

The House of Representatives this afternoon held a moment of silence to honor the victims of Flight 3407.

Lawmakers who were gathered to pass President Barack Obama's fiscal stimulus bill stood in silence for about a minute at about 2:30.

While the congressman who represents the site of the crash -- Rep. Chris Lee, R-Clarence -- traveled to the scene of the accident, his two Buffalo-area colleagues took to the floor of the House just before the moment of silence to mark the tragedy.

"I know that the whole House joins .‚.‚. in offering our deepest condolences to the loved ones of those killed in this tragic event, and to offer a tremendous gratitude to the firefighters, emergency personnel and the other first responders who bravely worked through the night and are still working today to deal with this accident," said Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo.

"We suffered a terrible blow in Western New York. My heart breaks for usptate New York," said Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport. "The first responders and all the citizens of Western New York have rushed to help, and all the officials in Washington and all the local officials will do all we can to ease the pain."

Update, 2:45 p.m. -- The list of named victims is up to 15.

 Update, 2:39 p.m. -- Twitter users in Buffalo and elsewhere have relied on the service to post regular updates in the minutes and hours since the crash of Flight 3407.

The micro-blogging site has been a very good source of information on the crash, with links to news articles, photos and video. Most updates on the crash are tagged with the term "#clarenceplanecrash" to make it easier to follow the conversation.

You do not need to be a member of Twitter to view the conversation.

Update: 2:23 p.m. -- Here is a screen shot from Google Maps apparently showing the house at 6038 Long Street in Clarence that was believed destroyed in the crash.

Update, 2:11 p.m. -- CNN has a package of coverage, including user-generated content in its iReport section.

Update, 2:04 p.m. -- We've updated our lead story, Among the developments: investigators have located the plane's two flight recorders.

Update, 1:33 p.m. -- News Editor Margaret Sullivan talks about the paper's ongoing work to cover the crash:

"We are putting all our newsroom muscle into this major story, with the majority of our 180-member news staff working on it.  Some staffers were up all night -- reporters, editors and photographers among them -- and are still here or on the scene this afternoon.  We have sports staffers, arts critics and business reporters working outside their usual areas of expertise to lend a hand.  It's a case of all hands on deck.

"In addition to updating our Web site continuously, we are producing a 10-page special section for Saturday's paper, documenting the tragic loss of life.   That section will replace our usual Life & Arts section.

"The coverage includes video, blogs, photo galleries, profiles of the victims and an in-depth look at what happened to that ill-fated flight from its delayed takeoff in Newark to its horrible landing in Clarence.

"Our news staff has been directed to take an assertive approach to gathering the news while simultaneously being respectful of privacy and sensitive to the tragedy. It's a difficult balance. I'm very proud of our journalists and how they are rising to this challenge."

Update, 1:25 p.m.-- Several Buffalo Sabres lived in the neighborhood where the plane crashed and experienced its aftermath.

Numminen"I heard the plane coming," said defenseman Teppo Numminen, pictured at left in 2007. "I was in my bed and I heard it and thought it sounded really weird, really close to us. Then I heard a little poof afterwards and I was thinking, "That doesn't sound good, doesn't sound right.' So I looked out of my window and I saw the red sky and I knew something was wrong."

Added defenseman Jaroslav Spacek: "I heard the fire trucks and ambulances coming and I remembered that it was pretty bad weather when I was driving home for dinner."

Coach Lindy Ruff, who lives about two miles from crash scene, had this to say:

"It's an incredibly sad day for our city and we've talked about it that this is going to reach and touch a lot of people. You've got to get through it. It's an area where a lot of us live. Everybody is going to know somebody that's touched by this. It's a tough day for Buffalo."

Read the complete story here.


 

Update: 1:05 p.m. -- There are a number of video clips of the crash aftermath posted here at YouTube. Some are from citizens, some from news organizations.

Update: 12:50 p.m. -- We'll be updating the list of victims as their names are released at this link. Eleven names have been released, including Alison DeForges, historian and human rights activist who documented the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

Update, 12:38 p.m. --The Rev. Angel L. Gauthier, of Prince of Peace Christian Church in Buffalo, was inside the Cheektowaga Senior Citizens Center, where he found what appeared to be more than 100 family and friends of people who perished in the plane crash.

"Walking in there was like being in the valley of suffering," said Gauthier, who is also a chaplain with the Buffalo police and fire departments. "I was sharing a thought with a family member who lost a grandson and he couldn't stop weeping. All I did was hug him and cry with him."

"I tell you," Gauthier said, "It's going to be a day of mourning for all of us in Western New York, and all over the nation."

Update, 12:27 p.m. -- The plane's flight path, as tracked by radar, can be viewed here.

Update, 12:20 p.m. -- There are a lot of photo galleries of the crash at this link at flickr.

Update, 12:14 p.m. -- We'll be posting updates, links and other information throughout the day on the Clarence plane crash last night that has claimed at least 49 lives. Keep checking in throughout the day.

Jim Heaney, a News reporter who blogs at Outrages & Insights, will be handling the duties until further notice. You can e-mail him at jheaney@buffnews.com with links and tips to other useful resources.

Initial report -- Fifty people died when a Continental Express airplane crashed into a house in Clarence Center shortly after 10 p.m. Thursday, setting off a huge fire that could be seen miles away.

The dead included 44 passengers, four crew members and a person on the ground.

A nurse at Erie County Medical Center said the hospital's second shift had been told to stay late to treat survivors but was sent home before midnight.

"There were no souls to bring in and treat," she said.

Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority spokesman C. Douglas Hartmayer said there was little communication between the plane, Flight 3407, and the tower before the crash. Crew members aboard the flight from Newark Airport had reported mechanical problems as they approached Buffalo.

The plane reportedly was a Bombardier Q400, a twin-engine turboprop with a passenger capacity of about 74.

"I was told by the tower the plane simply dropped off the radar screen," Hartmayer said.

Initial reports said the crash site was 6050 Long St., not far from the Clarence Center Fire Hall on Clarence Center Road. Police said one man was in the residence at the time of the crash.

About 12 other nearby homes were evacuated. Several of them sustained fire damage.

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