US Federal investigators are busy combing through wreckage of an Atlas Air B767-300F flying for Amazon Air that crashed into a bay outside Houston, killing all three people on board Saturday.
The aircraft was nearing George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) on Saturday when it nose-dived into a muddy and marshy area of a bay near the city, authorities said. Three people on board were killed in the crash, Atlas Air says, with two bodies recovered so far.
Chambers County Sheriff Brian Hawthorne described the scene as “total devastation,” he told the Associated Press. Sheets, clothing, and cardboard were found littered around the crash site, Hawthorne told local news ,with the debris extending for nearly 1.5 km.
Atlas Air Flight 3591 was flying from Houston to Miami with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) saying the B767 was preparing to land when it disappeared from both radar and radio communications at about 48 km southeast of Houston George Bush International Airport. It fell from an altitude of 1,989 metres to 922 metres in 30 seconds.
The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) chairman Robert Sumwalt told a news conference Sunday afternoon the aircraft appeared for five seconds in video captured from the Chambers County jail, about 2.4 km away, showing the aircraft in a “steep, nose-down” descent, Sumwalt says, adding that there was no distress call from the aircraft and it had no declared hazardous materials on board.
The aircraft’s crew was informed by air traffic control of light to heavy rain ahead before losing contact, but Sumwalt said it was too soon to know the cause of the crash.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who have been affected,” Bill Flynn, Atlas Air chief executive officer, says in a statement. “This is a sad time for all of us.
“Our team continues to work closely with the NTSB, the FAA and local authorities on the ground in Houston,” Flynn added. “We would like to commend the efforts of all of the first responders. We sincerely appreciate their efforts and support in the investigation.”
A group of investigators from the NTSB – known as the ‘go team’ – arrived in Texas Saturday evening to begin the probe. Investigators are scrambling to recover the so-called black boxes that contain cockpit voice recordings and flight data to determine the cause of the crash.
Atlas Air, is one of the providers of Amazon-branded ACMI capacity to the e-commere giant, alongside the Air Transport Services Group (ATSG) which together operate a total fleet of 40 Amazon-branded freighters under Amazon Air, formerly known as Prime Air.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the flight crew, their families and friends along with the entire team at Atlas Air during this terrible tragedy,” Dave Clark, Amazon’s senior vice president of worldwide operations, says in a statement on Saturday. “We appreciate the first responders who worked urgently to provide support.”