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Ice On Wings Suspected In Crash Investigators In Michigan Locate Airplane’s Black Boxes

Sat., Jan. 11, 1997, midnight

Investigators, struggling through stinging sheets of blowing snow, focused Friday on the possibility that ice on the wings of a commuter plane caused it to nose-dive into a cornfield, killing all 29 aboard.

They recovered both “black boxes,” containing recorded cockpit voices and flight information from the twin-engine Embraer 120 turbo-prop, operated by Comair, a regional carrier flying as the Delta Connection, when it crashed Thursday in a snowstorm. The boxes were shipped to Washington, D.C., for analysis.

“We are especially pleased we located these recorders,” said John Hammerschmidt, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board, which is heading the investigation. Hammerschmidt refused to speculate on the cause of the crash, but an NTSB source close to the investigation said: “Obviously, we’re looking at the weather. Icing.”

The plane, made in Brazil and known as a Brazilia, carried 25 adult passengers, one infant, a pilot and co-pilot and one flight attendant. It had left Cincinnati at 2:53 p.m. EST and was 18 miles short of Detroit Metro Airport when witnesses said it rolled to the right and plunged straight down, nose first, into the cornfield, exploding on impact and drilling a black crater in the fallen snow.

“It’s not a pretty sight out there,” said Charles Chapman, a state trooper. “There are no whole bodies, just pieces of people scattered in the stubble. The plane must have come in almost straight down, because there is no path of destruction leading to the impact - just an oblong debris field.”

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