Passengers may have saved third terror target

PITTSBURGH, Sept. 12 -- Just minutes before his plane crashed Thomas Burnett phoned his wife, telling her the flight had been hijacked but that he and several other passengers were determined to "do something about it," the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Wednesday.

"I love you honey," were Burnett's last word to his wife Deena, before United Flight 93 crashed about 60 miles southeast of Pittsburgh with 45 people aboard.


Authorities don't know exactly what caused the plane to crash at 10 a.m. EDT, Tuesday, but it appears that Burnett, 38, of San Ramon, Calif., and several other passengers were determined to tackle the hijackers.

During the call Burnett said that one of the passengers had been stabbed, the family's priest, the Rev. Frank Colacicco, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

"He said, 'I know we're all going to die -- there's three of us who are going to do something about it,'" Colacicco said.

The Federal Aviation Administration reported that as the San Francisco-bound flight neared Cleveland, the pilot requested a flight change and turned the Boeing 757.

The plane was one of four hijacked by suicidal terrorists, who destroyed the World Trade Center and badly damaged the Pentagon, but apparently did not intend to hit a grassy field 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.


Burnett, was the father of three and chief operating officer for Thoratec Corp., a Pleasanton, Calif., -based medical devices company. The Chronicle reported he told his wife that a passenger had already been killed after the doomed flight took off from Newark, N.J.

"This is a great professional and personal loss for all of us at Thoratec," said D. Keith Grossman, the firm's president and chief executive. "We are all shocked and saddened by (Tuesday's) senseless and ruthless acts that took from us our friend and colleague."

The FBI interviewed Deena Burnett, 37, about her husband's call.

Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported Wednesday that the pilot may have been fighting with the hijackers.

U.S. Rep. John Murtha, D-Penn., said finding the black box was key to solving the mystery.

"We think the pilot may have intentionally brought the plane down to avoid attacking another building in Washington, D.C.," Murtha told the Tribune-Review.

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