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CNN BREAKING NEWS
Coverage of the Commuter Plane Crash in Buffalo, New York
Aired February 13, 2009 - 01:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
QUESTION: What time was this plane scheduled to land? And what time did the crash actually occur?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have the plane crashing at approximately 10:20 p.m.
QUESTION: And what time was it scheduled to land at the airport?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Probably 10:25.
QUESTION: What do you do from here in terms of investigation and fire suppression and the rescue effort?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not a rescue effort. We're in the overhaul mode, if you will. The scene is still very hot. Buffalo fire and the airport fire fighting equipment are assisting us in cooling the scene down.
The local fire department did an excellent job of bringing the surrounding area under control keeping damage to a minimum. County executive, do you have anything you want to add at this point?
COUNTY EXECUTIVE: Well, I would tell you, it's operating under a limited state of emergency with a unified command under the county. And we have emergency personnel from the NFTA, the county, and the town state police, and the sheriff all coordinating their efforts. Right now, there are some fire still going -- so the scene is not safe for any personnel at this point.
QUESTION: Have residents been evacuated?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We did evacuate approximately 12 homes and they pretty much went to neighbors, houses, there's no one in any shelters.
QUESTION: Is there a hazmat concern?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a hazmat concern early on. We had a significant amount of fuel left on that aircraft. However, that has not become an issue. The hazmat teams have then returned to quarters and that is a non-issue at this time.
QUESTION: Can you tell us what the NFTA is doing with regard to families who are waiting at the airport?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The families right now are at the U.S. Airclub at the Buffalo Airport in coordinating to Continental Airlines as to what further directions they would be offered.
It was a Continental Express operated by Colgan Air. That's C-o-l-g- a-n, it was a 74-seat Bombardier Aircraft; a Q400 Bombardier.
I was not fully -- the tail number on the plane was 3407.
We would also like to give out at least two phone numbers. If any one with a family would like to call, they should call 1-800-621-3263. I'll repeat that; 800-621-3263.
If the media is calling for questions, they should refer their calls to 713-324-5080. I'll repeat that once again for the media, 713-324- 5080.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I want to give the Supervisor Blaski an opportunity to speak on behalf of the town, Scott.
SCOTT BLASKI, SUPERVISOR: Thank you, Dave Bissonette. First, our thoughts and prayers are with those who are on the flight with their families and as well as with our residents who are on the ground in Long Street. This is an incident in the town of Clarence and we are very mindful and thankful of our first responders.
The fire and police who have been there and all of the agencies who have worked together; State, county, NFTA and local agencies. And we just want to say thank you to all of them for their hard work and efforts knowing that this event is still ongoing.
For Clarence Center residents -- for additional information regarding Long Street, again, for Clarence Center residents, only, please contact my office if you have questions, 716-741-8930. Again, for Clarence Center residents only, questions regarding Long Street, 716- 741-8930.
Again, our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the crew, the passengers, and our residents on Long Street. Thank you.
QUESTION: What's going on at the scene right now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now, the scene is being secured. Fire fighting operations are pretty much expired and state police have secured the area and we're waiting investigators from the airlines as well as federal personnel.
QUESTION: How many houses were damaged?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One seriously damaged -- there was some peripheral damage to some of the neighboring homes of that address.
QUESTION: We heard that that house was leveled. Is that true or not true?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's seriously damaged.
QUESTION: What can you tell families out there who are watching this right now live and listening to this live, in terms of their love ones and in terms of hope, what do you tell them?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is clearly a tragedy. Everybody, as the supervisor has already mentioned, our prayers and thoughts are with the families that have been involved. And we would ask the town to be patient with the situation overall.
Please do ask your questions but be mindful of the fact that this is a huge operation. We've got a lot of things to take care of here in the short term so that all those answers can be finalized.
QUESTION: -- air traffic control before the crash?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not that I'm aware of. I was told by the tower that the plane simply dropped off the radar screen.
QUESTION: What were the weather conditions at the time?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It probably pretty much as they are right now. A little bit of sleet and rain coming down.
QUESTION: How about wind?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not actually sure about the wind is like.
QUESTION: Sir did you know the flight number for this the plane?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, the flight number again -- for those who didn't get this -- 3407. And again, that was a Continental Flight but it was operated by Colgan Air.
QUESTION: Did you hear or did see anything?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I live about three miles down the street. It's -- no, we did not hear anything at all. And I got a phone call and that was the first I heard of it.
QUESTION: I imagine this activated everybody's emergency plans?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It did. We have plans in place for emergencies like this and Greg Skevitzki (ph) and our Emergency Services Department in coordination with various police and the town activated immediately.
There is a forward post man by Greg Skevitzki right now at the site. This is obviously the command post. All of the procedures that we train for all the time went forward exactly as planned and are under control as best as you can have in a tragedy of this type.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will say that this is including all levels -- all levels from the local right down to federal operations. All represented here doing their jobs.
That's all the questions we're going the take right now. We will have more for you in a couple of hours. Let's say 4:00 o'clock.
QUESTION: Could you identify you're self again? DAVE BISSONETTE EMERGENCY COORDINATOR: My name is Dave Bissonette, I'm the Emergency Coordinator for the town of Clarence. And this is the EOC all the information will come from here.
QUESTION: Can you spell your last name?
BISONETTE: The last name B as in boy i-s-s-o-n-e-t-t-e. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, once again that was the --
ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: We've just been listening to a news conference of city and emergency officials there in Buffalo. That took place 20 minutes ago on that news conference. That they can confirm that there were multiple fatalities in that crash, the Continental Flight 3407 from Newark to Buffalo. Crashed into a home in Clarence Center in suburban Buffalo, New York, at about 10:20 local time.
The Federal Aviation Administration can confirm that 48 people were on that plane; 44 passengers and four crew members. Now, officials are not willing to say if there were any survivors or how many fatalities.
But as I said, they did confirm that there were multiple fatalities and that they were -- that this was the tragedy. The house that was hit we don't know if anybody was inside. But we can confirm that there was one fatality on the ground and that there were several injuries as well. And those people were taken to the hospital.
We also know that the conditions that night just after 10:00 p.m. in Buffalo was rain and sleet. So for more on the weather conditions in the area, why don't we cross to our meteorologist, Jenny Harrison who is standing by at the CNN Weather Center?
And Jenny, what can you tell us about conditions in Buffalo?
JENNY HARRISON, CNN WEATHER CENTER: Well, certainly in Buffalo for the last few hours has been a very wintry mix. Let me just show you -- it's been a very wintry mix in Buffalo for the last few hours.
In fact, it had just the last hour turned over to mostly snow. Buffalo, if you don't know, is literally here. It's in almost the most far northeastern point of Lake Erie. And certainly in the last 24 hours we have seen a very intense area of low pressure which was working its way through the entire northeast.
Now, the actual winds first of all in New York, of course, the plane taking off from Newark, New Jersey. But in New York, these are the current wind speeds so sustained at nearly 30 kilometer an hour.
Now, this is the whole region where the winds have been at their strongest for the last few hours. Winds certainly a lot to cross into Buffalo; but, in fact, current the wind speeds in Buffalo sustained at about 20 kilometers an hour.
So this means, of course, that there could be some strong gusts in there. And we're hearing from one of the passengers on the plane that obviously there was poor visibility and as I say it was a wintry mix.
Now, the strong wind system and the storm system that was coming through in the last 24 hours, this is the one that throughout the day actually brought down power lines widespread across much of the lower Midwest into the northeast at one point.
There are 400,000 people without power. And this is the actually wind forecast model for the next 36 hours. So as you can see here, right at the start of this actual forecast period, the winds are still pretty strong and gusting high across this entire area.
Now, temperature wise, of course, as I said it is a wintry mixed. It is not particularly cold. And certainly wasn't in Newark, New Jersey. And the conditions there certainly were just dry and mostly cloudy.
And we had a very wintry mix as I say turning to snow in Buffalo with temperatures feeling like about minus 5 Celsius -- Anna.
COREN: Ok, Jenny Mae, thanks for the update.
As we confirmed, a little earlier, 48 people were onboard Continental flight 3407 from Newark to Buffalo; the plane that crashed into a home at Clarence center in suburban Buffalo, New York.
And the Federal Aviation Authority, as we say, confirmed 48 people onboard; 44 passengers, and four crew members. Well, let's now return to our affiliate to hear the latest.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone who was on this plane in this tragedy that is taking place in our backyard right now.
Ready to go to Joss Boose now. Josh, we have you live right now. Josh, you were there for that news conference that took place just a short while ago.
Now that we have you live, give everyone if you can a recap of the main things that you learned from them.
JOSH BOOSE, WKBW: Well, let me first start off by saying I heard your conversation with Dave Scott. And this is a recovery operation. Morris Sevilla, my colleague just gave me the quote, "multiple fatalities" that came from the news conference about half an hour, or 45 minutes ago. "Multiple fatalities here."
But this is a recovery operation -- one fatality on the ground.
Let's start from the beginning so we're all on the same page here. For everybody at home, if you're just joining us, just after 10:00 tonight, a plane crashed into a home on Long Road just off Clarence Center Road in the town of Clarence. It was a Continental Flight, 48 passengers were onboard -- excuse me -- 48 people were onboard, four crew members and 44 passengers. There were initial reports that a firefighter or firefighters were injured that is not the case. Emergency responders, law enforcement officials saying no to that.
The flight was actually coming to Buffalo from Newark, New Jersey. I spoke with someone, a couple hours ago, Chris Kausner, he said he was actually on his way to the airport to pick up his sister, 24-year-old Elise Kausner.
He said that he heard on the radio that there had been a plane crash and then he start making some phone calls and he heard what happened. He wanted to come here to town hall. This is where the operation center is, if you will, where everything is going on.
Actually, behind that closed door right there that the gentleman is holding, that's where everyone's gathering for the command center post gets to get the very latest information and bring it out to us. They are saying, by 4:00 a.m., they will have another news conference for us.
But back to Chris Kausner, he said that his sister was aatually in Newark on a lay over coming from Jacksonville, Florida. She's a Jacksonville law school student.
Again, the scene was very hot. The first responders could now say that enough, it was a very hot scene. One home was "severely damaged." That's a quote -- "severely damaged." Other homes where damaged -- peripheral damaged there -- 12 homes were evacuated in the neighboring communities. Nobody was taken to a shelter or anything. They went to neighboring homes or friends' homes there.
Families of those involved in this crash are at the U.S. Air Club at the Buffalo Airport. Again, this is Flight 3407, a Colgan Air 74-seat aircraft. That crashed here in Clarence, Scott.
SCOTT LEVIN, WKBW ANCHOR: All right, very good Josh, thank you very much for that recap. I've also just received a text from Congressman Chris Lee. That is his district there. He says, he wants to pass along that the NTSB, the National Transportation Safety Board, will be on the scene in the morning there out of Washington D.C. And he has more information to follow as well.
On the line with us right now is Tony Cotrow. Tony lived one block away -- he lives one block away from this. Good evening to you Tony. Tell us what you saw or what you heard tonight?
TONY COTROW, EYEWITNESS: Yes, how are you? I was actually on my way back home from the gym, I was driving eastbound on the Clarence Center Road. Saw the plane actually fly right over my car, I have to look out at the top of my windshield in order to see it.
Strangely enough, it was flying northbound, anybody that lives in this area knows that flight path is south to southwest over Brookfield Country Club from here and then continuing on to the airport. So this is going in the absolute wrong direction. The opposite direction of where it should have been going. It was nose down. Left wing was slightly down, pitched sideways, if you will. I saw the underbelly of the plane pretty clearly. I did not see any landing gear. I didn't see anything wrong with the plane.
It did not sound normal. I haven't flown on too many flights, but I know what a normal engine sounds like. And this one didn't sound normal. I saw impact -- impact happened at 10:17 I literally was calling 911 seconds after impact.
LEVIN: Tony, tell me, was it a spiral type of landing? Describe that?
COTROW: No, sir, it was a flat -- a flat -- plane. I mean, it was not spiraling at all. Left wing was just a little bit low. It was on a very direct line down. It was on a very steep angle. It was not very high when it crossed Clarence Center Road at all. So I knew it was going down but it was not spiraling at all.
LEVIN: And Tony what was the impact like? Did the flames hit any other homes or was it pretty much contained to that one home?
COTROW: Well, it was contained in one home only because I've seen it subsequently, I live right behind the Losers, I know that you talked with Mr. David Loser earlier. I live right behind them, so I'm one house removed from impact so having looked at it after the fact. I know it was just the one house there that was affected. Where I was when I watched the plane go over the Center Road was only a matter of 300 or 400 feet from impact.
But I could not see the impact because of the homes in between where I was at the rescue center, the volunteer fire department.
LEVIN: Tony, how far did you say you live, how far did you say you live from the impact scene?
COTROW: As I look out the back window of my apartment I live right behind the Losers there, it's literally one house between me and where the impact happened.
LEVIN: Tell us what you see right now.
COTROW: Well, obviously you've got a lot of sirens and there's still plenty of rescue crews around. The smoke is continuing to billow up and around it's not nearly as heavy as it was in the previous hour.
But it's still smoking and it's pretty warm. The smell of smoke is now gone although it was pretty smoky for the last couple of hours.
LEVIN: All right, that is Tony on the line with us tonight. Tony, thank you very much.
COTROW: Yes, sir.
SCOTT: For those eyewitness accounts. We appreciate you calling in to Channel 2. Right now, we're going to check again with Channel 2's Ron Plants. He has some new information for us now. Ron, what's the latest there?
RON PLANTS, CORRESPONDENT: Scott, this regards the control, the flow of information. We are being told that the next briefing for the media will be at 3:00 a.m. This is going to be at the town library.
They're being very careful as to what information they release. During the original press conference, I believe it was about an hour ago, a couple of hours ago. And they actually said, incorrect information had been released. They would not tell us what that information was.
But they said they wanted to make sure that they are getting the correct information out. Obviously, this is a very sensitive situation. And you're dealing with family members.
Ok, now I'm being -- it's being corrected back to 4:00 a.m. for that media briefing I am being now; a very fluid situation here with a number of police personnel. We are waiting to see if the NTSB is on scene. Usually, they are the responders that will come out and start the actual crash investigation.
They would look for the black box in the plane. That gives them the information as to what was going on with the flight controls, what the pilots were doing, some of the cockpit conversations. These are all the sorts of things that they would scrutinize as they try to determine exactly what happened with this crash this evening.
Again, the weather had been raised as a factor here and whether that could be a factor or not, Doug Hartmeier (ph) from the NFTA said that we have sleet outside right now. We do not have heavy winds, so again, it's hard to say if that was factor. They will look at everything, in terms of trying to determine the exact cause of this crash.
But again, they are being very tight lipped about the flow of information and what they are releasing at this point -- Scott.
LEVIN: All right, very good Ron, we'll let you try and gather whatever more information you can and we'll break in when you have more information. And we do have some video that is on-line on YouTube.
And we want to stress this is not Channel 2 video -- this is the YouTube video of the scene. This apparently was posted just a few minutes after the impact. Let's take a look at it as you can see, that's just been online for about an hour right now.
We're told emergency and rescue personnel arriving at the scene there and you can see where the impact was in the back there; some massive flames shooting up. And every witness says that they saw this plane nose diving. No one has described as a spiral but they are saying nose diving.
We're also getting a lot of the citizen photos in tonight as well and I know we have a few of those here.
This is from Joseph Dumbrowski (ph), the scene tonight, the spectacular flames just a very, very tragic situation taking place in our backyard right now. This is a human tragedy right now. And another picture here of the firemen coming to the scene. The rescue scene and massive flames.
Another picture from another citizen photo.
And we're going to go to Marissa Bailey right now, Channel 2's Marissa Bailey, and she is at that town hall right now. And Marissa, what have you learned?
MARISSA BAILEY, CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know Scott, you can understand just how tense the situation is right now, I mean, officials are flying in from all over. They're coming from all over Western New York.
We found out the special agent in charge of FBI for all of Western New York is here. She showed up herself, she's in the command room right behind us here. And we're actually being asked to be leaving this area and heading across the street.
So you're seeing a little bit of media kind of pushed out to here. But I want to give you a couple of quotes from the press conference that really sort of resonated with all of us here. One quote that they had talked about was how this is a long-term event; that a long- term investigation is evident for this.
And really, you stand here as a reporter. And you go to these questions, and if this is something you deal with every day and you can understand just how intense this is right now.
Again, we're seeing medical examiners here. We understand Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Bellatier (ph) has been called. He's going to be on the scene shortly. So really, as far as the medical perspective and as far as an effort here, as my colleague Josh Boose said earlier the quote from the press conference was "multiple fatalities" tonight.
So that's the latest here. I think we're going to probably reconnect with everyone at the other side across the street to city library I believe. And we'll get back to you then.
SCOTT: All right, thank you Marissa. Obviously, it's not what we want to hear, but it has been confirm that there are --
COREN: We've just been listening to our affiliate in Buffalo following that tragic plane crash. We can confirm that Continental Flight 3407 from Newark to Buffalo crashed into a house shortly after 10:00 p.m. Eastern time.
The Federal Aviation Administration has confirmed that 48 people were onboard that plane; 44 passengers and four crew members. They are not willing to say if there are any survivors nor if there were any fatalities from that plane crash.
They have confirmed, however, that there was one fatality on the ground.
Well, let's now cross to my colleague, Anderson Cooper in New York. And Anderson, what a tragedy.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: It is a terrible tragedy. At this point, we're still trying to understand the full scope of exactly what has gone on.
Let me tell you about what we know and perhaps even more importantly, at this point we don't know and cannot confirm. As you know often in a situation like this, the early reports are sketchy.
It's important at this point in this operation not to say too much and not to go down the road of speculation. We do know there were 48 people aboard that flight. Authorities now say there are multiple fatalities. We do know there is at least one fatality of somebody on the ground.
We believe there were 44 passengers, and four crew members. Someone who has previously been on that flight who takes it repeatedly said usually there were two flight attendants, two members of the crew inside this cockpit. On this particular flight, 44.
That is a look at the plane, it's a Q400, a Bombadier aircraft. Some 74 seats on that aircraft, two rows of seats, two seats side-by-side with an aisle in between so four rows total across the width of the aircraft. It's some 20 or so rows deep according to one person who's been on that plane often.
Again, it seems as if the plane may still be on fire. They had this press conference about 10 or 15 minutes ago in which they said that firefighters and multiple personnel are on the scene trying to battle this blaze.
But that the plane itself was still on fire. They at this press conference made no comment on survivors. That is telling, there's also we're getting no reports of huge numbers of people being taken to hospitals.
So at this point we know one fatality on the ground but no comment on the actual people who were onboard that plane. The fatality that we do know about was somebody who was on the ground. The plane slammed into a house in the early evening hours.
And it came down, according to one eyewitness at 10:17 this person saw the plane crashing at 10:17 p.m. This is the flight from Newark Airport to Buffalo; it was suppose to take off at 7:00 p.m. this evening from Newark. Apparently it was somewhat delayed.
So there may be some confusion for folks about who is on the flight some people who were supposed to be on the flight turned out not to be, took other flights. They've talked to their love ones. We've heard from eyewitness reports from people who were supposed to be on that flight and were not on that flight.
But again, the plane is said to have flattened at least one home that it has slammed into and you've been watching the pictures now for quite awhile. It is certainly a chaotic scene, you can tell the weather, the conditions are not ideal. You see rain right there.
In the images, two different people describing the weather in different ways: One a passenger on a plane which flew a similar route around the same time who said it was cloudy, foggy, rainy and snowy. An official on the ground at this press conference about 10 or 15 minutes ago described it as quote, "a little bit of sleet and rain.
Again, we're not sure what has caused this plane to crash at this point we are still very early on. This is not a rescue operation, workers officials have said. Again, at this press conference just a short time ago, ominous words no doubt.
But we want to be very careful about what we are saying and just give you the information that we know as fact. There are a lot of people now who believed they may have loved ones on this plane who are watching us right.
There is a number for family members to call that number is 1-800-621- 3263. Again, this is the number only for family members who may be concerned about having a loved one on that plane. 1-800-621-3263.
I'm just getting a word now that New York state police are saying that all 48 people aboard this flight have died. These words just coming in from the New York state police; 44 members -- 44 passengers, four crew members, all now by New York state police confirmed fatalities.
Also, one fatality earlier confirmed on the ground; that would bring the death toll to 49 people in this one crash alone. The investigation say authorities is in progress. But again, this is still a very active scene. We've seen -- you can see there not only smoke billowing out of what remains of that house, we believe that maybe the house that was crashed into or part of the property.
And I think on your right, you can see a part, a piece of the tail of the plane sticking up, I believe that's what that is. But again, officials said at this point this is not a rescue effort. We clearly have gotten some indication but didn't want to say until we now have confirmation from New York state police saying that all members -- all people aboard this flight have indeed perished.
In the hours ahead, no doubt there'll be many questions about what caused this plane to go down. We'll be hearing more from eyewitnesses but at this point there's an awful a lot of people who are waiting at that airport and Buffalo family members have been sequestered there and this is the worst possible news for them to hear.
We heard earlier from one family member, who was a man who was waiting for his sister aboard that plane. Her name is Elise Kausner. His name is Chris, he was waiting her sister, and she goes, Elise Kausner was going to law school. She was on a connecting flight and was just heading home for the weekend to visit her brother Chris and his kids. He was waiting for his sister at the airport there. Chris Kausner said that he talked to his mom, the mom of Elise Kausner and when explained what had happened that she did not react well and in his word she made noises that he had never heard her make before. And she's now trying to figure out how to get home from Florida to get back home to her family.
On the line we have Jim Tilmon who is in Chicago, who's an aviation expert; Jim, a retired pilot, aviation analyst. You've been seeing the pictures Jim -- we've heard the sketchy information and one eyewitness said that the plane basically went down at 10:17. That they heard the engine was making a strange noise and that the left wing was a little bit low but it just went down. What do you make of this?
JIM TILMON, FORMER PILOT: Well, a lot of things seem to kind of stick out here however, you and I know that speculation at this time is just not a good idea.
TILMON: One of the things I can say however is that, with the weather conditions being what they are, they're right for freezing rain, it's going to accumulate the ice on the airplane very quickly.
However, it would be a mistake for us to assume that it was a weather accident by itself. It could have been a combination of a number of things. You want to know well who and what landed just prior which leaves some turbulence in the air which will exacerbate any kind of an icing situation.
We want to know more about the weather situation. It could have been a kind of a sudden shower of this freezing rain which could have caused it. Whatever it did, it was so sudden it seems to be a sudden catastrophic situation that occurred without giving the pilot obviously some warning so that they can do something. And with that low altitude, it didn't have airspace to do very much of anything.
They have a very low air space but I must tell you this airplane is very sophisticated. This is one of the most sophisticate turboprop airplane in the sky today. They have blast (ph) cockpit as may know what does means and you know that that is very advanced and sophisticated instrumentation.
And they have an airplane made in Canada, this airplane is made for cold weather and bad weather like this and that sort of things. So there a lot things that a lot of questions we have and not many answers.
COOPER: One of the officials who gave this press conference today and it was sort of a chaotic and impromptu press conference a short time ago, said that there was very little communication from the aircraft.
TILMON: I will say that's true because that's consistent with something happening so suddenly and such a catastrophe that there's no time for that sort of thing. It's kind of a surprise that the worst nightmare for a pilot. So yes, no I don't think they got in message at all.
COOPER: There were also concerns, we heard from folks on the ground about the plane still burning; concerns over jet fuel. In a plane like this, with a flight from Newark to Buffalo, is there an awful lot of jet fuel; they were coming toward the end of the flight.
TILMON: Well, it's hard to determine because sometimes we ferry fuel. Sometimes you have far more fuel in the airplane than you're going to use for that particular leg in the flight.
You may refuel at a certain point knowing they're going to go back and forth several times. Who knows? But this is a situation where -- I should mention because of the debris field that is being described, it sounds like it was consistent with just auguring with; this nose-dive type of a stall accident as opposed to something that has some kind of trajectory on the ground that goes from Point A to B.
All of these things point to a stall in the airplane and something they were not prepared to handle.
COOPER: When you say stalling the airplane, what do you mean?
TILMON: I mean that they ran out of air speed and altitude all at the same time. I'm saying that the airplane was going maybe in a very safe speed under normal conditions. But as soon as you begin to load up with ice and if they do it suddenly enough, your speed, that is your minimum speed for controlling the airplane is exceeded; exceeded very quickly.
You literally reshape the wing of an airplane when you start putting ice on it like that. And you reshape it to a point where it is not the design of the airplane, at all. If you have enough altitude and all, you may very well be able to recover and nobody ever knows the difference. But at that altitude -- you would bear up -- I'm pretty sure he was below 2,000 feet and that's not enough room.
COOPER: When -- in a case like this, if you're descending rapidly from 2,000 feet, does the aircraft start to break up before it hits it ground?
TILMON: No, I doubt it seriously. These airplanes are very sturdy airplanes. With little air speeds like that, you're not going to have any kind of structural damage because of what's happening there. I would say all the damage this airplane sustained was sustained upon impact.
COOPER: There was eyewitness report who said that -- according to him the plane nosedived into a home -- it basically flattened the home but it was kind of a nose dive.
TILMON: I would say that's what we're talking about. When an airplane stalls, and I know that's a term that we use in aviation all the time, it may not make much sense to anybody else. But what it means is that the wings are no longer providing lift for the airplane. It becomes a rock. It's falling. Not under control, at all. As a matter of fact, it could have gone inverted. Anything could have happened when that stalled.
COOPER: We just received a response from the Colgan aircraft. Because this was a Continental connections flight as you know, Jim that was operated by Colgan Air. And they just put out a release -- not really any new information in there but essentially saying Flight 3407 was involved in an accident. I'm just reading it -- literally I've just been handed this.
It says, "The full resources of Colgan's air action response team are being mobilized and will be devoted to cooperating with all authorities responding to the accident and to contacting family members and providing assistance to them."
It goes on to say relatives and friends of those traveling on Flight 3407 who want to give or receive information, call the number 1-800- 621-3263. It just confirms what we know that this Bombadier that the plane was operating and that they're in the process of collecting information; will schedule a news conference.
There's word that a news conference Jim may occur in about two and a half hours from now. We'll of course bring that to you live.
We're going to continue our coverage really all evening long.
At this point though, Jim, in terms of response on the ground, I mean, priority number one is putting out those flames.
TILMON: That's correct. There's just nothing else anybody else can do right now. They can't even begin an investigation until they get the fire out. That being said, the NTSB personnel that are watching this and the ones that are going to arrive on the ground very soon, will begin to make some assessments based upon what I've said so far.
They'll look at the debris field and they'll look at what's left. And everything else we see, that tail is about the only thing left that's recognizable there. There are some clues. They're not really conducting their formal investigation until we get this thing settled.
COOPER: Jim, I want you to hold on.
I'm going to be talking right now to Brendan Biddlecom who's an eyewitness. And Jim, you listen in. If you have any questions maybe that might be more informed than the questions I might have in terms of what we're looking for.
Brendan, this is Anderson Cooper. Can you hear me?
BRANDOM BIDDLECOM, EYEWITNESS TO PLANE CRASH: I can.
COOPER: I'm sorry, your last name is Biddlecom?
BIDDLECOM: That's correct.
COOPER: Where were you? What did you see?
BIDDLECOM: I didn't see so much until after impact. I certainly heard and felt the impact though as I live about two blocks from where the plane did hit.
COOPER: What did you hear? What did it sound like?
BIDDLECOM: It was a low buzzing sound. A very eerie sound. It's something that, you know, being where we're located, this is a typical landing -- you know, an inbound flight pattern that the plane will take in this area. It didn't sound like anything I heard before. I could tell that the plane was close overhead. As soon as I realized, gosh, that sounds strange, instantaneously there was impact, the house shook and it sounded like a large explosion.
COOPER: When you say it sounded strange, how so? You've heard a lot of planes. This one sounded different?
BIDDLECOM: Yes. Again, it was almost like a low buzzing sound. I guess I could equate it maybe to the sound of like a chainsaw on wood. It's a very, very odd sound.
COOPER: About how big an area did this affect?
BIDDLECOM: As soon as I heard the impact, immediately I knew that this is what it had to be. I went outside and neighbors within a few moments were starting to make their way down and then there's several volunteer firemen who live in the neighborhood because there's a volunteer fire house across the street from where the plane did hit.
And I didn't make my way too far down to the scene; I didn't want to get too close. I know for a fact that at least one house was taken out, from the small radius around probably a few properties that were impacted.
COOPER: Yes, I know they've evacuated about 12 other homes nearby. Was your home one of those?
BIDDLECOM: No, we weren't. We were outside the area. But I did get evacuated. Certainly for a while, we did think about leaving. The smoke was very thick and very acrid smell in the air.
COOPER: Did you -- I don't know if you've been seeing the television images -- did you actually go to see the crash site yourself? Or you've been watching on TV?
BIDDLECOM: I got probably a few hundred yards away but that's about it.
COOPER: I don't know if you've seen the image that we're looking at right now which appears to be the tail of the aircraft, and there's a home off to the left of it. Do you know exactly what that is? Is that the home that was crashed into?
BIDDLECOM: I don't have the image up on my screen right now.
BIDDLECOM: So I couldn't tell you for sure. But I do know that if what you're seeing is a fairly demolished home, that would be the one that was hit.
COOPER: At this point in your neighborhood, what is happening? Is the entire area -- the authorities said that they've been working to securing the area. Is that pretty much locked down now?
BIDDLECOM: Yes, I mean, certainly from what I understand, you know as things evolved. Right immediately after the scene before there was any first responders on site, it was really just the neighbors kind of hurrying to try to figure out what was going on. But it wasn't long.
Again, we do have a volunteer fire house right across the street from the impact. It was fortuitous in that sense. I don't think there's much they could do right away just because of the heat and the size of the flames and the impact area.
COOPER: What is the area that -- can you describe this area? Is it a suburban area? How close are the houses one to another?
BIDDLECOM: It's a small hamlet just outside of the city of Buffalo. It's actually an old town that's fairly densely populated in this area. You go another half mile or so outside, it gets pretty rural. But around here, it's an older neighborhood with denser homes.
COOPER: And about how far from Buffalo are you?
BIDDLECOM: It's about 15 miles from the city.
COOPER: I appreciate you letting us talk to you, Brendan -- I'm sure this is one of the strangest nights you've experienced. And we do appreciate you telling us what you saw. Is there anything else we should know about?
BIDDLECOM: No, no. All I can say is that these things just put life into perspective when something like this hits so close to home. I hope your viewers and then everybody out there hugs their loved ones tonight and realizes what's important in life.
COOPER: Amen to that. Brendan, again, appreciate you talking with us. Thank you very much.
I think we still have Jim Tilmon on the line.
TILMON: Yes, I'm still here.
COOPER: Jim, I'm just getting another report that the transportation safety board said they're going to be sending a team to Buffalo this morning, obviously, to investigate the crash. That's not obviously surprising.
And that the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority spokesman confirms that there was little communication between the plane and the tower before the crash. The crew members aboard the flight reported have mechanical problems as they approached Buffalo.
TILMON: Now we begin to get -- that is why I think when we go into speculation, immediately saying, "Well, it was obviously the weather." It's a little less conducive to stalls, flight (ph) conditions and all that. We can make so many gigantic mistakes and looking at something like that that pops out at you right away early on. So I always try to make sure that we qualify what we're saying as we start to talk about these things and recognize -- that's why they have a go-team from the NTSB so they can take their times afterwards and really discover exactly what may have happened.
COOPER: Yes, especially early reports are often inaccurate in this situation. And we've been very careful about reporting fatalities. We did get confirmation New York state police that at this point they have confirmed that 48 people aboard this plane -- all the people aboard this plane have perished. For a flight like this going down the way it seems to have, survival is very, very difficult.
TILMON: Yes, it is. And something that goes out in that confined area that looks like the airplane stalled and went directly straight down. The chances of surviving that are very, very slim.
COOPER: This is actually America's deadliest crash since the ComAir (ph) commuter jet crashed in Lexington, Kentucky back in August 27, 2006. That also claimed 29 lives.
One person was believed to have been in the house at the time that the plane hit. One person on the ground, there was a fatality. I don't know if it's the person who was in that house. We haven't gotten any confirmation on that at this point.
Jim, I just want to bring in Becky Gibbons who's with the New York state police -- I'm told we just lost her so we'll try to get her back.
Again as our viewers no doubt know this is a fast-moving situation that we're trying to stay abreast of. We're getting reports now that early on -- early on there were flames 40 to 50 feet high from this house and that when authorities got there -- actually I'm just reading something -- someone who got to the crash about one or two minutes after the crash said the house was already flattened. That there was, in fact, no house, just a pile of rubble and that it was still burning.
And again, these flames, 40 to 50 feet which in some of these pictures we've seen clearly. On something like this, I guess you have to just let these flames burn off with jet fuel?
TILMON: Well, they can use foam to confine it and to try to contain it. But there's not a whole lot more you can do with that. Kerosene burns a very, very hot fire and it does takes some skill in order to actually control it.
The other thing about this, too, Anderson, is the winds were light. Whatever happened there happened with the airplane moving very, very slow at a time, happening at a time when it's very conducive to a lot of different things that could have made this happen.
COOPER: Jim, just hold on now. Becky Gibbons is back. She's the public information officer with New York state troopers. Becky thanks for being with us. What can you tell us? You've confirmed now the number of fatalities?
BECKY GIBBONS, NEW YORK STATE POLICE: At this point I can't confirm the number of fatalities. What I can tell you is that there were 48 total people onboard that flight. There are no survivors. The plane did crash into a residence in Clarence.
From my understanding, there was one person in that residence. At this point, state is working in conjunction with numerous law enforcement agencies, the sheriff's office, NFTA (ph) currently have a perimeter around the area. It's a two-block area where there is a perimeter where everyone's been evacuated at this point.
COOPER: Ok, the New York state police -- I know you have not confirmed this from the state troopers but we were told the New York state police had confirmed 49 fatalities. All onboard had perished. But you cannot independently confirm that at this point?
GIBBONS: From my understanding there are 48 subjects onboard. And there are no survivors. As I mentioned, there was one that was in the house.
COOPER: Ok, I'm sorry your phone cut out when you said no -- so we didn't hear the number of survivors. No survivors on the aircraft, one fatality on the ground.
GIBBONS: No survivors.
COOPER: Do you know the fatality on the ground that was reported earlier -- do you know, is that the person who was inside the house or is that someone else?
GIBBONS: At this point, I can't confirm whether there was a fatality on the ground. We do know there was one person in the residence.
COOPER: And at this point, in terms of the operation under way, I know securing the area was a top priority as well as battling obviously these flames. Is the plane still burning?
At this point, the fire is under control. It's contained primarily to this one house, the one residence. We do have some residents surrounding that house evacuated and fire personnel along with the (INAUDIBLE) are in the area.
COOPER: And in terms of a press conference or more information, at what point are you planning on doing that?
GIBBONS: I don't have time for you.
COOPER: We're being told -- do you have -- we're getting conflicting information on what is the correct number for families to call. The number that I had is 1-800-621-3263. That's the number I've been saying.
GIBBONS: Yes, that's correct.
COOPER: Becky, I know you're busy. I appreciate you taking the time to talk with us. Thank you very much. Becky Gibbons. New York State Troopers saying there were no survivors from onboard this plane and that she couldn't confirm one fatality on the ground. Other reports have confirmed that earlier. She did say one person was inside the house at this point.
Jim Tilmon is still on the line within; a retired pilot aviation analyst as well. Jim, I'm sorry, you were saying something I think right before I went to Becky.
TILMON: Well, I was just counting the other factors that are involved. You know, when you have an accident like this, just about everyone that I ever dealt with, it's very rarely one single thing that made it happen. It's often the perfect storm of a number of things that contribute to it. Remove any one of those factors and there's no accident.
That's another reason why these things are too complicated and takes so very long for the NTSB to come up with the possible cause of the accident. We have a lot of time that's going to go by before we really know what happened.
COOPER: It comes, of course, on the heels of so much publicity this week with the US Airways flight and the miracle on the Hudson which occurred. And this of course is a grim reminder that miracles don't always occur and that things can go very bad, very wrong, very, very quickly.
TILMON: Not only that, it comes at a time when we were celebrating the fact that it's been a very long time since we've had an aviation fatality in commercial aviation in this country. As you pointed out, this was perhaps the very first that we've seen since the Comair accident sometime ago.
COOPER: Now a plane like this, a Turboprop -- it's a connecting -- it's a Continental connection flight. It's operated by Colgan Air. How often -- and we're showing the plane -- it's the Q400 Bombadier aircraft. You were saying -- I'm being told we have an interview to listen to.
Let's hear what the affiliate is reporting.
CHRIS COLLINS, ERIE COUNTY EXECUTIVE: Pretty much the fire is out at this point in time. Obviously, the plane went -- dove in to a single home which has been completely devastated.
JOSH BOOSE, WGRZ: Just describe for us the scene around there. I understand that the New York state police have completely blocked off the perimeter if you will. Just explain what it's like when you're actually there. COLLINS: I would say surreal. The tail of the plane is sticking out of the ground. Obviously, it exploded upon impact. It had 5,800 pounds of fuel onboard. And if you could expect what you would see with that kind of explosion. 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. What I've been told is they were -- got as close to the plane as they could. They were shouting out to see if there were any survivors on the plane. I can't say enough about what the firefighters did, rushing right in as you might expect they would. But truly a very heroic effort, but there were no survivors.
BOOSE: Have you talked to any family members or heard from any family members?
COLLINS: Personally, no. I know that they are gathering at the Clarence Senior Center. And those that have experience in matters like this are dealing with that. There's clergy there. Certainly the thoughts and prayers are with the families.
BOOSE: I know you personally lived close to where this happened. What was it like when you got the call?
COLLINS: Again, the call I got was the attending physician at the Erie County Medical Center, who's a personal friend, wanting to know what I knew if they should be stand by for -- what efforts they should be on standby for. Simultaneously, I got a call from our emergency services folks. I'm just two minutes away so I was here in about two minutes' time.
BOOSE: At this point, is it all hands on deck? From a television standpoint, we're all here, we're all trying to get the information out. What's it like for the county?
COLLINS: The county -- all of our emergency services personnel are here; Dr. Latierre (ph) is going to be coordinating efforts tomorrow morning. The fire fighters are in from all over the NFTA. Firefighters are there. The sheriffs, police, the state police, the state police barracks is only two miles up the street. Everyone who was on site literally within minutes.
BOOSE: What would you say to the family members watching? I know they've congregated inside the airport at a section. What would you say to them -- the people that have gathered at the airport tonight?
COLLINS: That our thoughts and prayers are with them. It is a tragedy beyond description. And that everything was done within moments of that plane coming down. As I said it was within one block of the fire hall. The firefighters were on that scene immediately, attempting to rescue anyone that could have been rescued. Every possible effort was put forth.
BOOSE: All right. Erie county executive Chris Collins, thank you very much for speaking with us. Erie County sheriff Tim Howard actually was standing alongside the county executive a few moments ago but has left.
I want to get out a couple of numbers just briefly here especially for family members of those on the plane. The number is 1-800-621-3263; that's 1-800-621-3263.
And for those people here locally in Clarence, if you have questions or concerns about what to do, especially the 12 homes that were evacuated, we have a number -- we have a number for you as well. That number is 716-741-8930. That's 716-741-8930. And my colleague, Marissa Bailey is actually just coming in right now with some new information -- Marissa.
MARISSA BAILEY, WGRZ: Thank you Josh.
I did just talk to somebody that was out with County Executive Chris Collins. They were out on scene. Some of the words they used to describe -- they said it smells like burning fuel, says it smells just completely charred out there on the scene.
Just another update on some of the things that they saw out there as to what's left. We're hearing that you can see the tail of the plane, you can see tires -- the tires underneath the plane. You can see some doors. You can see -- I asked specifically if you could see any luggage or any remnants or anything. He said he really can't see any of that. There's just the tail and the tires and such.
We did find out that power has been intentionally cut to the area of long road where the plane went down. And again, that is intentional for the safety of the people there and the people that are on scene.
So, again, that's the latest information that we have for you here and we'll be sure to bring it to you live as soon as we have it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Josh and Marisa. Firefighters will say --
COOPER: Just so you know, we're monitoring a number of different reports and we're bringing them to you at different times trying to get as much information as we can. That's from WKBW, an affiliate up there.
Some important information there that we haven't heard before: the description of the smell, the scene, Chris Collins the Erie county executive describing the scene as surreal. And really perhaps the most surreal image is the one you're seeing right now on your screen, the silhouette of that house and on the right hand side, the tail of the aircraft still visible, literally sticking up out of the ground.
One of the reporters -- Chris Collins also saying you could see tires. We're just going to receive a statement from Congressman Chris Lee, whose district this crash has occurred in. He said "We're deeply saddened by the tragic accident that occurred tonight in Clarence. Our focus right now is on supporting the first responders on the ground and their efforts to ensure the health and safety of the people in the area. I'll do my best to provide helpful information as we learn more. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims' families at this difficult hour."
No doubt, in the coming hours and no doubt tomorrow in the full of light of day we will learn about all the people onboard this flight, all who we now know have perished. All 48 people aboard this flight, one person on the ground a total of 49 have perished tonight in this incident.
Earlier before we had confirmation that there are no survivors from onboard this flight. One of the affiliates talked to a man by the name of Chris Kausner, who was waiting for his sister, Elise, he knew was on board this flight. He hadn't been told really any information whatsoever about what had occurred or the status of it was.
He knew the news was not good. And he had already told his mother that on the telephone and his sister, Elise, was coming home for the weekend and was going to spend some time with his children, her nephews.
I want to play for you some of the interview that we saw a short time ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS KAUSNER, BROTHER OF PASSENGER: Originally they said it had landed and was taxiing. But that has turned out to not be the case.
QUESTION: How'd you end up in town hall?
KAUSNER: I was driving right through town because I was on my way home from a soccer game. They announced on the radio they had set up a command station here.
QUESTION: Chris, what has been going through your mind in the last few minutes?
KAUSNER: Like I said, I really am just thinking about my mother. My parents are on vacation in Florida and I had to call down there and tell my father what was going on. I'm just thinking about my mom.
QUESTION: How are they taking it?
KAUSNER: To tell you the truth, I heard my mother make a noise on the phone that I never heard before, so not good. Not good.
QUESTION: Was it your house, your parents' house?
KAUSNER: No, my sister was on the plane as far as we know.
QUESTION: She was due to come in on that flight.
KAUSNER: Yes, my other sister Laura was waiting at the airport. I heard on the radio that there had been a crash. So I called immediately to see if the plane had landed at the airport or not. Initially she thought that it had but it turns out that that is not the case.
QUESTION: Is it Continental flight?
KAUSNER: Yes, she was on the Continental flight coming in from Newark.
QUESTION: Were you able to get close to the scene at all or not?
KAUSNER: No closer than anybody else. I tried but they told me to come over here and any information would be coming out of here.
QUESTION: What have you heard?
KAUSNER: Nothing. They're gathering information together right now and they don't really know anything.
QUESTION: What are you thinking.
KAUSNER: I'm -- right now, I'm thinking the worse. And I'm thinking about the fact that my mother has to fly home from Florida and what I'm going to tell my two sons. That's what I'm thinking.
QUESTION: What's your sister's name?
KAUSNER: It's Elise Kausner.
QUESTION: How do you spell that?
KAUSNER: It's K-A-U-S-N-E-R.
QUESTION: What's your name?
KAUSNER: My name is Chris Kausner.
QUESTION: What was your sister doing in Newark?
KAUSNER: It was just a connecting flight. She's flying home from Jacksonville. She's in law school there.
COOPER: That's Chris Kausner talking about his sister, Elise Kausner, talking about his own mom having to come home now from Florida to face this tragedy. Maybe even sitting in an airport right now, perhaps even watching us on television in an airport there.
A lot of family members right now all around the United States who are going to be making the difficult journey now to the Buffalo airport to be with their loved ones and try to find out whatever information they can. It is going be a long difficult night and long difficult days ahead for them and all of their loved ones.
Again, at this point, if you're just joining us, 49 people have perished this evening in a crash that occurred at about 10:17, the plane is said to have gone down by an eyewitness.
We have an iReporter who took some images. Anthony Trujillo (ph) who is joining us now on the phone. We're going to show you some of the images he took. Anthony, where were you when all of this occurred?
ANTHONY TRUJILLO, IREPORTER: I was at my computer at my house. And what happened was I heard the plane crash. I didn't know it was the plane at the time. And my mom let me know that there was something big going on down the street. So I grabbed my camcorder, grabbed the tape. Put on my "hoodie" and just kind of ran there, drove over there in my pajamas. And started taking some video footage.
COOPER: And these are the images that we're showing our viewers right now. Clearly, you've probably never seen anything like this. Describe what you saw. We're seeing the firefighters. Clearly the early stages trying to battle these flames which are huge.
TRUJILLO: Yes. As I was getting closer, I saw people pouring out from all sorts of neighborhoods and stuff like that; tons of fire trucks and tons of sirens -- more than I've ever heard in my life. Lots of people all over the place. It was pretty chaotic.
COOPER: And how close were you to the impact site?
TRUJILLO: It's only about a minute and a half drive from my house; rather close, actually.
COOPER: The point that you got there clearly there's first responders already on the scene. There's a fire house very close to the crash site.
COOPER: How far away is that?
TRUJILLO: Just down the road. That's only going to be about 20 seconds.
COOPER: How long did you stay at the scene. And did you see any parts of the aircraft? In some shots we've seen the tail of the aircraft.
TRUJILLO: I saw that on the TV, actually, when I go home. I could not see any, at the time I got there, all I saw was flames; just a big fireball. I couldn't see any parts of the plane or anything like that.
COOPER: There's a house on the right side of your images. Is that a house that was hit or is that a nearby house?
TRUJILLO: That's just a nearby house, I believe. I'm not sure.
COOPER: Ok. It appears as if the plane -- the heat of the plane is to the left. I'm assuming that's what it is or a garage or part of the property. As far as you could see only really one house was damaged?
TRUJILLO: Yes, as far as I can see.
COOPER: Well, they're remarkable images, Anthony Trujillo. We appreciate you sending them to us via iReport. Anyone else out there who has some, feel free to do that as well. Anthony, thank you very much for your time tonight.