Friend of Pilot in Deadly Buffalo Plane Crash: 'It's Just a Shock'

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," February 13, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: This is a "FOX News Alert." One vote to go. The U.S. Senate is one vote away from passing the $787 billion stimulus bill, and that vote is expected to be cast in moments. Democratic senator Sherrod Brown from Ohio is expected to cast the 60th and deciding vote in favor of the bill. Senator Brown's mother died on February 2nd, and her funeral is tomorrow. The White House has arranged for a plane to fly Senator Brown to Washington tonight, then immediately back to Ohio, so he can attend church services tomorrow morning. We're going to let you know as soon as Senator Brown casts this deciding vote.

But first: It felt like an earthquake. That is how eyewitnesses described the horrific crash last night of Continental flight 3407. At 10:30 PM last night, the doomed jet plunged into a house in Clarence Center, New York, the explosion massive and deadly, the 49 passengers and crew on board all killed, a man in the house the plane hit also dead.

Eyewitnesses to the crash described a horrifying scene.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sounded like the plane -- like the engine was, like, sputtering, and the next thing you know, it just kind of, like, cut out and you could hear it just, like, hit and -- big ball of flame.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought debris was going to hit my house. I just -- I just ducked. I...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's no more house. From the moment we got there, there was not a house. There was just the wing of a plane that you could see. I could see the front part of the plane, and just flames getting higher and higher. And then you would hear explosions. And we did see the woman. Oh, that poor woman! My heart breaks. We saw the woman who owned the house. I didn't see her running out of the house, but I did see her. She was starting screaming, That's my house! That's my house!~ And she fell to the ground.


VAN SUSTEREN: Two eyewitnesses to this horrible scene will be here in moments to tell you exactly what they saw, plus a friend of the doomed plane's pilot.

But first, FOX's Laura Ingle is on the ground with the very latest -- Laura.

LAURA INGLE, FOX CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Greta. Well, the painstaking process of searching for the victims's remains will continue in the morning. It did start earlier this afternoon. That process had to be called off once the sun went down. County officials here in Eerie County tell me that they are using a grid pattern over the three-quarter-acre crash site to go through and try to identify those remains. The medical examiner has said that will be a difficult and lengthy process that will take days and days.

Now, there is still no word on the cause of the crash, though, not an official word, at least, though the NTSB has said that the flight crew did report significant ice on the wings and the windshield just before Continental flight 3407 fell off the radar screen and plummeted to the ground. There was no mayday call.

Weather conditions were very rough last night. Everyone in the greater New York area knows that. There was a wind, snow, fog as this commuter jet approached the Buffalo airport. Investigators have recovered both black boxes. They are going through that information over the weekend. The NTSB tells me tonight that they may have some preliminary information tomorrow and will let us know about that (INAUDIBLE) of course, that's going to take some time before they have the full report.

Now (INAUDIBLE) heartbreaking stories of the victims are emerging. Beverly Eckert, a woman whose husband died in the September 11 terror attacks, was on board (INAUDIBLE) today. She was on her way to Buffalo to celebrate (INAUDIBLE) husband's birthday (INAUDIBLE) at a local school (INAUDIBLE) ice hockey player. She was on her way to (INAUDIBLE) this weekend with her former teammates.

VAN SUSTEREN: We're going to...

INGLE: I spoke with those teammates earlier today. They said that they would play that game tomorrow in her honor. They will go forward with the game...

VAN SUSTEREN: That was Laura Ingle. Obviously, we had some problems with her mike, but back near the scene of the crash.

Jaimeelynn Trujillo and Dave Hartzell heard the violent noise of the crash and saw this immediate aftermath. They both join us right now. Jaimeelynn, first to you. Tell me, what did you hear and see?

JAIMEELYNN TRUJILLO, HEARD FLIGHT 3407 CRASH: Hi. Well, the first thing that what happened was I was sitting in my living room on my couch, and my daughter was sitting on our dining room chair. And we were watching a movie, and all of a sudden, we started to hear a plane come over our building. And that's not unusual. There's planes all the time over the building. The unusual thing about this plane was...

VAN SUSTEREN: And we've got to...

TRUJILLO: ... There was a low-pitched hum -- a very low-pitched hum, where it just -- it was a buzz. It was so low that the tone of this buzz scared me. I looked at my daughter because I could tell something was not right. And she just looked at me. We were speechless...

VAN SUSTEREN: We're having problems, obviously, more problems out of New York.

Jeff Hiser, who is a friend of the pilot -- he is joining us right now. Captain Marvin Renslow is his friend and the pilot who -- one of the two pilots who died. Welcome. And first, of course, you know, our thoughts are with you tonight, just like everybody in the nation, as we watch this. Can you tell me a little bit about your friend?

JEFF HISER, FRIEND OF PILOT MARVIN RENSLOW: I've known Marvin said I was real young. His mother was a baby-sitter and baby-sat my brother and I. And Marvin was about two-and-a-half, three years older than I, and so we kind of grew up together in the same neighborhood and were involved -- we had a mutual -- oh, not understanding, but we were together in the bowling alley. His family bowled. My family bowled. And so we were on several bowling teams together. And Marvin was a great guy.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, Jeff, so many pilots that we speak to over the years, covering all these crashes, they talk about how much pilots love to fly. Is -- was this sort of his -- your friend -- did he always love to fly, or was this just a job for him?

Watch Greta's interview

HISER: No. You know, after high school, I mean, he got involved -- I don't remember exactly when he left to start, but I remember when he started in the airline business and kind of progressed through, taking lessons and so forth. And he just found it fascinating, whenever you talked to him about the job, and he enjoyed doing that.

VAN SUSTEREN: Have you had a chance to talk to anyone in his family since you learned the news about the crash?

HISER: Yes, I -- this morning after I received the call in, early morning, I went down and spoke with his mother, Shirley (ph), and his sister, Shirlene (ph), and then I went back again this afternoon and spoke with both of them and -- see how they're doing and so forth. And it's just a shock and hard to believe that this happened.

VAN SUSTEREN: Jeff, thank you very much. And of course, once again, you know, I can't, you know, tell you enough how everybody feels covering these crashes and people watching this. You know, it's terrible, and our hearts and prayers go out to you.

HISER: Thank you.

VAN SUSTEREN: Let's go back to two witnesses to the crash. Jaimeelynn Trujillo and Dave Hartzell. Dave, let me start with you. Tell me when you first heard the plane or figured that there might be something wrong. Tell me what you saw and heard.

DAVE HARTZELL, HEARD FLIGHT 3407 CRASH: Well, like Jaimeelynn, I was sitting on the couch with my wife and heard it, and then we felt it hit. And I turned to my wife and I said, Something's wrong. And she said, I think it's just wind But I said, No, I think it's bigger than that. And I ran outside the house, and there was a giant plume of gray smoke that went up 100 yards in the air. And I hopped in my car and drove down there, and it was just absolutely a wall of orange flame. And I has asked a friend on the way and he says, I think a plane crashed. And that, in fact, was what it was. But it was just -- it was horrific. There was jet fuel all over the ground and it was burning. And it was, you know, acrid, acrid smoke all over the town. So just a horrific, horrific crash.

VAN SUSTEREN: Jaimeelynn, I was having a hard time hearing you with the microphone when we first went to you, so tell me again. Was your home right in the path of this aircraft? Did the plane seem to go over where you live?

TRUJILLO: Yes, the airplane went directly over where we live and where we were sitting at the moment. And that's when we heard that buzzing sound from the plane. So we knew it was a plane,, but what was alarming was the fact that it was a very low-pitched buzzing sound. It was like a hum, but it was so low-pitched. And my daughter and I just took a look at each other. We were speechless because we felt the anxiety. We knew that something was wrong.

And at that point, at that moment, all of a sudden, the buzz stopped and everything went dead silent for a moment. And then, all of a sudden, the entire building shook. And at that point, we heard the most devastating sound of a crash and an explosion that I've ever heard in my whole entire life.

And at that, my daughter looked at me, and I sat frozen on the couch. And she said, Ma -- and I said, Hon, come over here so we can look out the window, because I was so frightened to just get up to take a look to see what transpired. And I did. I took a minute, and then I got up and I looked out the front windows, and I didn't see anything. And then as I began to walk towards the back of the house, all of a sudden, my daughter says, Mom, mom, the neighbors are screaming to call 911! She was, like, I don't know what happened!

So we opened the door and I said to my neighbors, What's going on over there? Did somebody fall? Do you guys need help or something? And they said, No, the plane -- or a plane just hit the house behind us. And so we all grabbed out boots and our cell phones and started dialing 911. We ran down the stairs and we started running right around the corner because it's right behind us. It took us two, three minutes at the most to get there.

And when we got there at the scene, there were just a few neighbors out at the point -- at that time, and no crews were there yet. So we were one of the first ones there. And we tried to get as close as we could to the fire to see if we could help pull anybody out or to help do anything that -- anything to just help somebody there. But there was nothing we could do because the flames were so high, it kept us back.

And at that point, all of a sudden, I heard this woman behind me. I didn't see her running out of the house, but I looked behind me and this woman is screaming, That's my house! That's my house! That's my house! And then she dropped to the ground.

And then all of a sudden, I heard an explosion. So I turned around and I looked into the fire, and the fire kept growing. It was exploding and it was getting higher and higher. And then when I turned around to see -- for the woman, so we could help her, she was already gone at that point. And so we stood there. And at that point, we just began to pray out loud. We just began to pray and pray because there was nothing we could do. We started calling our prayer warriors. We started calling and texting everybody we knew so we could just pray that we could have people come out there alive.

And then sooner than later, the crews all came up. But we saw instantly before the crews got there, though, was -- when we first got there, there was no house. The house was already gone.

But I did see the wing of the plane was wedged up. It was, like, upright. And then I did see the cockpit, the front part of the plane. And then it would go up in flames and I could see that.

And it's very devastating. It has really affected me and my daughter, just seeing that. It was just devastating and -- and at that point, their crews came and they started setting up the stretchers. And we were standing there and we were praying and -- and about an hour later, like, no stretchers, nothing. Nobody was coming out to the stretchers. And then by now, like, we have all the crews were there. My landlord came, and he's awesome. He checked out our apartment to see what was going on, if there was anything on the roof from ours, because we're so close to it. I feel horrible, horrible, horrible.

VAN SUSTEREN: And indeed, you feel horrible, and so does everyone else, a terrible tragedy in New York. Jaimeelynn, Dave, thank you both very much.

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