The crew of the commuter plane that crashed into a suburban Buffalo, New York, house, killing all 49 people aboard and one person on the ground, noticed significant ice buildup on the wings and windshield just before the aircraft began pitching and rolling violently, investigators said Friday.
Officials stopped short of saying the ice buildup caused Thursday night's crash and stressed that nothing has been ruled out. But ice on the wings can interfere catastrophically with an aircraft's handling and has been blamed for a number of major air disasters over the years.
Continental Connection Flight 3407, bound from Newark, New Jersey, went down in light snow and mist - ideal conditions for ice to form - about six miles (9 kilometers) short of the Buffalo airport, plunging nose-first through the roof of a house in the suburb of Clarence.
All 44 passengers, four crew members, an off-duty pilot and one person on the ground were killed. Two others escaped from the home, which was engulfed in a raging fireball that climbed higher than the treetops and burned for hours, making it too hot to begin removing the bodies until around nightfall Friday.