NEW YORK, Feb 13: A commuter plane dropped out of the sky without warning and nose-dived into a suburban Buffalo house in a fiery crash that killed all 49 people aboard and one person in the home.

The cause of the disaster was under investigation, but other pilots were overheard complaining around the same time of ice building up on their wings — a hazard that has caused major crashes in the past.

The twin turboprop aircraft — Continental Connection Flight 3407 from Newark, New Jersey — was coming in for a landing when it went down in light snow and fog at about 10.20pm on Thursday around eight kilometres short of the Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

Witnesses heard the plane sputtering before it plunged squarely through the roof of the house, its tail section visible through flames shooting at least 50 feet high.

“The whole sky was lit up orange,” said Bob Dworak, who lives about a kilometre away. “All of a sudden, there was a big bang, and the house shook.”

Two others in the house escaped with minor injuries. The plane was carrying a four-member crew and an off-duty pilot. Among the 44 passengers killed was a woman whose husband died in the World Trade Centre attack of Sept 11, 2001.

Federal investigators searched through the wreckage for the black box recorders that could shed light on what went wrong, but they said the smouldering debris was still too hot to look for bodies.

No mayday call came from the pilot before the crash, according to a recording of air traffic control’s radio messages captured by the website LiveATC.net.

Erie County Emergency Coordinator David Bissonette said it appeared the plane “dove directly on top of the house”.“It was a direct hit,” Mr Bissonette said. “It’s remarkable that it only took one house. As devastating as that is, it could have wiped out the entire neighbourhood.”—AP

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