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Schumer promises help in tragedy

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said Monday that the newly appointed U.S. transportation secretary has assured him that the NTSB and the FAA will come to a consensus over whether aiplanes ought to be landed manually or on autopilot when there is ice on the wings.

Schumer, who toured the site of the crash of Continental Flight 3407 on Monday with first responders and local public officials, said he asked Transportation Secretary Raymond LaHood about the concern over the diverging recommendations for de-icing procedures by the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration.

"We don't know if it's ice that brought down the plane. That's not our job. NTSB will make their analysis as they go through everything . . . but in terms of icing, one of the things that NTSB recommended is that the plane be controlled manually, but the FAA did not make that a rule. LaHood says he is going to work out the differences to make sure this is done the right way and that this is done quickly," Schumer said.

NTSB is not part of the U.S. Department of Transportation but is an independent federal agency that has no organizational or funding connection to DOT.

At a news conference in the Clarence Fire District No. 1 fire hall, 10355 Main St., Schumer offered his condolences to the families of the victims of the plane crash and his praise to the first responders to the crash.

"Everyone came together. It's the best of Western New York in every kind of way," said Schumer.

"We pray for the [victims], we pray for their families, and know that every one of their families and friends are walking around with a hole in their heart. Having been through 9/1 1, I know what this is like, having lost friends there. It's just a terrible, terrible tragedy," Schumer added.

He said the first responders were "just amazing."

"That's the word to describe them: Amazing," said Schumer.

"The fact that this very hot fire didn't spread is a tribute to the readiness of these volunteer fire departments that came on the scene. They risk their lives. They don't get paid. They do it because they care. They're the best of America, the best of Western New York," he added.

Schumer also pledged that the federal government "will do anything and everything it takes to help those who lost loved ones, to help the communities here who rallied so valiantly after the tragedy occurred."

In offering his condolences to the families of the victims, Schumer singled out Beverly Eckert, formerly of Amherst, with whom Schumer said he was personally acquainted.

"You know, I knew Beverly Eckert who was here from Western New York. She lost her husband, Sean Rooney [in the 9/1 1 attacks]. They both went to Canisius. She was making sure all the time that she held everyone in Washington's feet to the fire and 9/1 1 wouldn't happen again," said Schumer.

"I'm sure that the families and friends of every one of the other victims, maybe not as well known, would have stories of quiet strength and dignity and grace that they will tell and retell," he added. "A month earlier, we were all sort of exalting that Flight 1549 landed safely on the Hudson River . . . And then, of course, this happens. And all you can say is God works in ways we don't understand," Schumer said.

e-mail: hmcneil@buffnews.com

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