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Flight Recorders Found In Plane Crash That Killed 14 in Texas With BC-Plane Crash-Victims List

September 12, 1991

EAGLE LAKE, Texas (AP) _ Federal investigators today removed the ″black box″ recorders from the wreckage of a Continental Express plane that went down in a corn field, killing all 14 people aboard.

The FBI was one of the agencies investigating Wednesday’s crash; witnesses said the plane crashed after a fiery explosion blew off a wing. Among the dead was a prominent Mexican college director.

National Transportation Safety Board Chairman James L. Kolstad said the voice and data recorders, found today in the tail of the wrecked plane, ″appear to be in fairly good condition.″

The devices will be sent back to the NTSB laboratory in Washington for analysis, said board spokesman Brent Bahler. The cockpit recorder or ″black box″ records the pilots’ conversations, and the flight data recorder makes a record of the aircraft’s speed, altitude and other information.

Bahler said speculation about the FBI’s involvement in the case is premature. ″Until they are satisfied there is no criminal activity, they are routinely involved in the initial phase of investigation,″ he ;said.

Investigators expect to spend three or four days examining the wreckage; the final report on the crash won’t be completed until next year, officials said.

Flight 2574, taking 11 people and three crew members from Laredo to Houston’s Intercontinental Airport, crashed about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday about 75 miles west of Houston, spewing wreckage over a four-mile stretch of southeast Texas farmland.

Witnesses said they heard a loud bang and saw a fireball before the twin- engine Embraer plane crashed.

One wing lay beside the fuselage, the other was hundreds of yards away, along the Colorado River. One engine landed about 200 yards from the scorched fuselage, which was missing most of its top and much of both sides.

Today, the area was roped off by police crime scene tape. Small wooden stakes marked the places where each of the bodies was found. Most of the victims were in the main portion of the plane, while two or three had been thrown from the craft.

Continental Express President Stephen Kolski said claims of an explosion were unconfirmed. Spokesman Richard Danforth said the airline received no threats before the crash.

The Brazilian-made Embraer-120 (pronounced EM-bry-air) had begun its descent to Houston’s Intercontinental Airport when it disappeared from radar screens at an altitude of 11,800 feet, said Kolski. The weather was clear and the pilot reported no difficulties before the accident, FAA spokesman Roger Myers said.

State Trooper Jake Sanchez said the bodies were burned beyond recognition. Though positive identification of the victims was not complete, officials released a list of crew members and passengers, as listed on airline records.

One of the passengers was Guillermina Valdes de Villalva, director of the Colegio de Frontera Norte de Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. In addition to directing the college, Ms. Valdes, 51, had been a prominent social activist and was known for her work on behalf of women workers.

″I was in the field about two miles from where it landed,″ said Charlie Labay, 76, a rice farmer. ″I heard a loud explosion. My son said, ‘Look, daddy, there’s a ball of fire 3/8’ It was just spinning and just coming straight down.″

Cary Labay said the plane ″was going round and round. The left-hand wing was off of it, was blown off. It was on fire.″

The plane, also known as the Brasilia, is the same model as one that crashed in April near Brunswick, Ga., killing former Sen. John Tower, astronaut Manley ″Sonny″ Carter Jr. and 21 others. That plane was operated by Atlantic Southeast Airlines, a commuter carrier affiliated with Delta Air Lines.

The NTSB discovered a propeller defect on that plane. The FAA ordered inspections on aircraft with similar propellers to check for worn parts that could cause pilots to lose control of the propeller.

Kolski said the Continental Express plane’s propeller was checked and no defect was found. He said the 3 1/2 -year-old aircraft had logged 7,229 hours and had no mechanical problems. The plane had a ″heavy maintenance″ inspection last November, he said.

The Houston-based, wholly-owned subsidiary of Continental Airlines has 34 Embraer-120s - including the one that crashed - in its fleet of 101 turboprop aircraft. The Embraer-120 can carry 33 people.

Both the pilot and the co-pilot were qualified as captains and had a combined 15,000 flying hours, the airline said. It was not known who was at the controls at the time of the crash.

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