ZAKA to assist with US plane wreckage

6-member team heads to NY to help with "recovery and identification of victims" of crash which killed 50.

By ELANA KIRSH, AP
February 16, 2009 17:22
2 minute read.

 
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A six-member ZAKA team headed to the US from Israel on Monday, to assist local emergency workers in "the recovery and identification of the victims" of a plane crash that killed 50 people on Friday near Buffalo, New York. ZAKA volunteer Motti Bukchin said Monday that the rescue and recovery organization had "much experience in international rescue and recovery in general, and place crashes in particular," and hoped to be able to assist in sifting through the wreckage "to ensure a full burial for all the victims." According to the Foreign Ministry, two Israelis were among the dead on Continental Flight 3407 from Newark, New Jersey to Buffalo, which nose-dived into a suburban home, killing all passengers, and one person on the ground. One of the Israelis killed was 27-year-old George Abu-Karem from Tiberias, who had traveled to the US to visit a relative. The name of the second Israeli passenger has not been released. Also among the victims was Susan Wehle, 55, of Amherst, a cantor at Temple Beth Am in Williamsville, New York. On Sunday, investigators in Washington and Buffalo began an in-depth study of the plane's voice cockpit and voice data recorders, in order to discover the circumstances behind the crash. US National Transportation Safety Board member Steve Chealander said information from the plane's flight data recorder indicated that the aircraft pitched up at an angle of 31 degrees in its final seconds, then pitched down at 45 degrees. The plane rolled to the left at 46 degrees, then snapped back to the right at 105 degrees -15 degrees beyond vertical. Radar data shows Flight 3407 fell from 1,800 feet (550 meters) above sea level to 1,000 feet (309 meters) in five seconds, he said. Passengers and crew would have experienced G-forces up to twice as strong as on the ground. The plane crashed belly first on top of a house about six miles (10 kilometers) short of Buffalo Niagara International Airport, two to three minutes from when it should have touched down on the runway. Authorities said Monday that gawkers continue to seek access to the site, forcing officials to again close a road that leads to the suburban Clarence neighborhood. Just before they went down in the suburban neighborhood, the pilots discussed "significant" ice buildup on their wings and windshield. Other aircraft in the area told air traffic controllers they also experienced icing around the same time. Chealander said in an interview that the pilot may have rejected federal safety recommendations and the airline's own policy for flying in icy conditions by leaving the autopilot on even after he notified air traffic control that the flight crew had spotted ice on the leading edge of the wings and the windshield. Still, he was careful not to be critical of the pilot. "Everything that should have been done was done, so we keep looking," he said. "We keep looking, trying to find out why this happened." Chealander said the plane's deicing system was turned on 11 minutes after it took off from Newark, New Jersey, and stayed on for the entire flight. Indicator lights showed the system appeared to be working. He said the pilot was being "very conservative" by turning it on so soon. Investigators who examined both engines said they appeared to be working normally at the time of the crash.

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