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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Michigan Air Crash Kills 29, Ice Blamed

MONROE, Michigan -- The pilot of a doomed commuter plane gave no indication that the flight was in trouble before it nose-dived into a snowy field, killing all 29 people aboard, federal investigators said.


Comair Flight 3272, a twin-engine Embraer 120, was en route from Cincinnati to Detroit when it crashed at dusk Thursday as it tried to land in a snow storm.


"It didn't skid at all. It went straight into the ground," said Cathy Conner, 14, who was getting off a school bus just as the plane crashed. "It was just like a blur, it was going so fast. Then I saw the explosion and flames just went everywhere."


With the bodies of the victims under tarpaulins on the field 30 kilometers southwest of Detroit Metropolitan Airport, federal investigators worked this morning to find what caused of the crash. Among the possible causes were ice on the wings and propeller problems.


"We can't ignore that fact we've had two other crashes with Embraer-made planes that were caused by propeller problems," said an investigator quoted by The Detroit News. Those crashes occurred in 1991 and 1995.


Planes at the Detroit airport had problems with ice all day Thursday.


"Ice was building up on fuselages and wings all day long," airport spokesman Mike Conway told the News. "A significant percentage of our flights were affected."


Just seven minutes before the crash, a pilot reported trace icing at 1,050 meters to 1,400 meters -- about the same altitude the Comair flight was flying, USA Today reported.


Comair officials said they don't believe icing was a problem, but a company pilot told The Cincinnati Enquirer that it could have been.


"When you have ice buildup, that disrupts the airflow over the wings causing the plane to loose lift and stall," said the pilot, who was not identified by the newspaper. "Typically what happens is you'll lose lift on one wing and that will cause the plane to roll over and go into the ground."


Comair obtained the plane in 1992, and it had its last major maintenance check Nov. 20, company spokesman Charles Curran said. There were no serious maintenance problems reported since 1992, and Federal Aviation Administration records show it was serviced 22 times since then.


Maintenance was done on the propellers and de-icing equipment in 1993 and 1994, service records cited by the Enquirer show. Last year, the plane scratched a take-off because of a false warning signal. Comair said the Cincinnati-based flight crew had made one round-trip to Detroit earlier in the day. The pilot, Captain Dann Carlsen, had worked for the company since February 1990.


The FAA said Carlsen didn't indicate any trouble as the plane prepared to land.


One of the victims, 37-year-old Maureen DeMarco, a teacher from Denver, was on her way to her brother's funeral. Brian Scully was one of six people killed when an Airborne Express cargo jet crashed in Virginia on Dec. 22.


The Embraer 120 is a Brazilian-built turboprop that can carry 30 passengers more than 1,300 kilometers. More than 300 of the planes are in use, most in North America, where they are popular with regional and commuter airlines.