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Tapes said to show joking before crash

The air traffic controller monitoring the plane that collided with a helicopter over the Hudson River on Aug. 8, killing nine, joked on the telephone about barbecuing a dead cat just minutes before the crash, an official with knowledge of the investigation said on Wednesday.

The official said transcripts of the conversation showed that the controller called the operations office at Teterboro Airport and asked a woman, "We got plenty of gas in the grill?" He added: "Fire up the cat," referring to a cat that had been cleared from runway, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing. The conversation ended seconds before the crash.

The Federal Aviation Administration has suspended the controller and his supervisor, but said that there was no reason to believe that the "actions contributed to the accident." However, the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the crash, said it would determine any role air traffic control "might have played in this accident."