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29 killed in plane crash near Detroit


January 9, 1997
Web posted at: 8:30 p.m. EST

MONROE, Michigan (CNN) -- A commuter plane carrying 29 people crashed and burned in a snowy field outside Detroit on Thursday, apparently killing everyone aboard.

movie iconEyewitnesses describe the crash -- 1.1M/26 sec. QuickTime movie

The twin-engine turboprop airline operated by Cincinnati- based Comair, Flight 3272, was on its way to Detroit Metropolitan Airport from Cincinnati when it went down just before dusk.

The 30-seat plane crashed near a farmhouse 18 miles (29 kilometers) short of the airport, splintering into small pieces.

Comair said 29 people were aboard: 26 passengers and three crew members. Joan Marie Smith, spokeswoman for the National Transportation Safety Board, said all were feared dead.

Eyewitness accounts of the crash
  • "Got my attention..." (230K/27 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
  • "Way too low..." (315K/27 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
  • "I heard a loud noise..." (298K/35 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

Charles Curran, Comair's vice president for marketing, told a news conference that Flight 3272 was on what appeared to be a routine flight. It had been cleared by the control tower to land, and its crew gave no indication anything was amiss.

He said the crew members were well-rested. They had made a Cincinnati-Detroit round trip earlier in the day, then rested for two hours before beginning a second round trip.

Curran said the plane was only four years old, relatively new for aircraft, and had been serviced at the required intervals. He also said another crew that flew the plane that day reported no irregularities.

icon (480K/40 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

Fire and rescue vehicles converged on the wreckage that was scattered through the woods, and rescue workers with flashlights combed the snowy hillside.


Pilot gave no indication of trouble

"There were body parts everywhere," said Bob Brant, an area resident who saw the crash told WDIV. "It would be impossible for anyone to walk out of there."

The pilot gave no indication of any trouble before the crash, the Federal Aviation Administration reported. The NTSB has sent a team to investigate.

The Brazilian-built Embraer 120 can carry 30 passengers more than 800 miles (1,300 kilometers). More than 300 of the planes are in use, most of them in North America where they are popular with regional and commuter airlines.

There have been three fatal crashes involving the Embraer 120 in recent years:

  • In 1991, an Embraer 120 operated by Atlantic Southeast Airlines went down in Georgia after a worn part failed in a propeller control system. All 23 people aboard were killed, including former Sen. John Tower of Texas.

  • Later that year, another Embraer 120, a Continental Express flight, nose-dived into a field near Houston, killing all 14 aboard. Regulators blamed the crash on missing screws in the tail's horizontal stabilizer bar.

  • In 1995, a propeller blade broke off an engine on another Atlantic Southeast flight, forcing the plane down in a hay field in Georgia. Ten people were killed. Investigators blamed a manufacturer for failing to discover the propeller crack that led to the crash.

    That accident prompted the FAA to order inspections of 13,000 propeller blades used on an estimated 1,500 aircraft worldwide. After the inspections, 370 propellers were replaced, including 19 on Embraer 120s.

Comair offers connections to Delta Air Lines flights in the United States. Comair and a few other small airlines that fly in and out of Delta hubs are collectively known as the Delta Connection. Delta owns about 20 percent of Comair.


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