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No survivors reported in USAir crash

ALIQUIPPA, Pa., Sept. 9 -- A USAir Boeing 737 jetliner crashed in Hopewell, Pennsylvania, Thursday evening with 126 passengers and a crew of five aboard. Reports indicate that none of the 131 people aboard survived the crash. USAir flight 427 was en route from Chicago to Pittsburgh with a final destination of West Palm Beach, Florida, and was trying to land at Pittsburgh International Airport. The plane apparently suffered engine trouble and crashed about half a mile behind Green Garden Plaza in Hopewell Township, approximately 30 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, shortly after 7 p.m. EDT, just six minutes before it was scheduled to land. The weather in the area was described as 'crystal clear,' and does not appear to have been a factor. When asked if there were any survivors, Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Sandra Allen said, 'It is unconfirmed; we believe there are none.' USAir was unable to immediately determine whether there were five or six crew members aboard. Michael Cernich, a doctor from a nearby hospital, was turned away by emergency personnel at the site, told that there were no survivors. Cernich said he was told that no bodies will be moved until morning, and that an emergency morgue would be established at the site. 'I would estimate I was maybe 75 yards from the main impact and as I walked thru the woods there were pieces of bodies lying on ground.... pieces of bodies lying in the trees,' Cernich said. 'The engines cut off...just seconds' before the crash, and 'the plane just blew up,' eyewitness Sandra Zuback told CNN.

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Other witnesses told UPI the plane appeared to roll on its side as it went down. Witnesses told UPI that the plane cut a wide path through a wooded area, scattering debris across the area. Pat Boyle, Allegehny County Director of Aviation, said the jet went down at 7:19 p.m. EDT. The flight 'was inbound to Pittsburgh, and at 6, 000 feet USAir radar lost contact' when it was six or seven miles from Pittsburgh International Airport, Boyle said. An airport official said the plane's pilots began reporting engine trouble 25 to 30 miles before it reached Pittsburgh. A National Transportation Safety Board spokesman in Washington, D.C., said, 'An NTSB team will leave (Washington) in the early morning, with up to about 10 investigators.' The jet went down near Green Garden Plaza, a strip mall of seven or eight stores located in a wooded, otherwise undeveloped area. Eyewitnesses said nobody on the ground appeared to have been injured. The downing of USAir flight 427 is the airline's fifth fatal wreck in the last five years and the third involving a Boeing 737. USAir Vice President David Shipley said, 'There is no indication as to what caused what occurred tonight. We consider the 737 to be as safe as any plane in the air today.' Pittsburgh International Airport officials said the facility handles about 110 flights daily. USAir has announced it will fly family members who need transportation to Pittsburgh and put them up in hotel.

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