Forty-nine people reportedly died when an aircraft identified as a Continental Airlines flight crashed into a house in Clarence Center shortly after 10 p.m. Thursday, starting a huge fire which poured thick smoke throughout the hamlet.
Unconfirmed reports from a source at Buffalo Niagara International Airport said that the dead included 44 passengers, four crew members and a person on the ground.
County Executive Chris Collins said that there may have been as many as 50 people aboard the plane, and crew members had reported mechanical problems as they approached Buffalo Niagara International Airport. Several injured people were taken from the scene to Erie County Medical Center for treatment.
Television reports said the crash site was 6050 Long St., not far from the Clarence Center Fire Hall on Clarence Center Road. Police said that one man was in the residence at the time of the crash.
Buffalo News Staff Photographer Harry Scull Jr., who lives in Clarence, said he heard a fire alarm at 10:20 p.m.
"Thirty seconds later, the phone rang and I knew it was something big," he said. "It was my neighbor. He said a plane hit a house, look out your window. I'm two miles from there and it was a ball of fire."
Scull said he went to Long Street to take pictures and found a chaotic scene as firefighters attempted to run hoses to fight the flames.
Scull noted that after dark, he has noticed that incoming flights pass lower overhead.
"It scares you, they come in so low," Scull said. "You can smell the jet fuel burning. I knew it was just a matter of time."