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12 days after crash, residents get green light to begin returning

Clarence Center families evacuated after the crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407 are expected to start returning home today, 12 days after the commuter plane plunged from the sky, killing 50 people and devastating a once quiet hamlet.

Clarence Supervisor Scott A. Bylewski said Monday he and other officials expect some of the 12 evacuated families, as well as those who voluntarily left, to begin moving back sometime today to their homes on Long Street.

Some have said they are not yet ready.

But Bylewski said, "We want them to be able to return to the day-in, day-out of their lives to the best of their ability."

He said he hopes one day the neighborhood's residents will be able to believe "that tomorrow will be better."

All 49 people on board Flight 3407 were killed. The crash also claimed the life of Douglas Wielinski, who was in his home at 6038 Long St. when the plane destroyed it.

His wife, Karen, and daughter Jill were in a different part the house and managed to escape.

The family has not revealed permanent plans for the site, although Karen Wielinski has said she does not wish to rebuild a home there, Bylewski has said.

He also said a stepped-up law enforcement presence will continue in the Long Street neighborhood, where "curiosity seekers" have been a problem since the crash.

"We want to protect the rights and privacy" of Long Street residents, he said.

Town officials had hoped that those who left would have been able to come back home by last weekend, but weather-related problems delayed the return. The biggest obstacle has been frost, which caused slowdowns in removing soil from the site, officials said.

The Wielinski family's garage and a one-story, beige-brick house next door at 6032 Long, which also was structurally damaged, have been razed.

As part of the cleanup, the site was tested and cleared of any hazardous materials. Topsoil was removed and replaced, in certain sections, by crushed rock. Bylewski said grass will be planted in the spring, once the ground has thawed.

The last pieces of the aircraft were hauled away on four trailers Thursday.


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