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AMERICAN EAGLE PLANE CRASHES IN N.C., KILLING 15

SHARE AMERICAN EAGLE PLANE CRASHES IN N.C., KILLING 15

An American Eagle commuter plane was on its fifth trip in a daylong hopscotch across North Carolina when it crashed in fog and drizzle, killing 15 of the 20 people aboard.

It was the commuter airline's second crash within two months, but the plane was not the same as the model that went down in Indiana in October, killing all 68 people aboard.Flight 3379 from Greensboro smashed into the ground 31/2 miles from Raleigh-Durham International Airport Tuesday evening. The crash snapped the fuselage in half and scattered wreckage across 500 yards of rugged woods, airport spokeswoman Teresa Damiano said.

Residents who rushed to the scene said they heard the cries of survivors as the Jetstream Super 31's cockpit burned. One passenger was walking around in shock, looking for his wife.

When Edmond Badham arrived at the scene about 10 minutes after the crash, he found people pinned in a 20-foot-long chunk of the fuselage.

"There was a woman who was trapped upside down and still strapped into her seat," he said. "I was afraid if I undid the belt she would fall."

The pattern of the wreckage offers clues about the cause of the crash, Ned Clarke, an aviation safety consultant, told NBC's "Today" show.

"The fact we have so many survivors and that type of environment says that the aircraft was essentially flown into the ground," Clarke said.

The muddy site was hindering the probe, John Lauber of the National Transportation Safety Board told the "Today" show.

"It's going to be very difficult to work back there. We are probably going to have to build some roads to complete this investigation," Lauber said.

Airline spokesman Al Becker said no one yet had any idea what caused the crash.