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Former president bush speaks ecuador chamber of commerce

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Jet Crashes on Way to Get Former President Bush
Mon Nov 22, 2004 07:06 PM ET

By Jeff Franks

HOUSTON (Reuters) - A private jet on its way to pick up former U.S. President Bush at a Houston airport crashed in bad weather on Monday, killing the three crew members on board, officials said.

A team of investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and FBI agents went to the scene, and officials said the crash appeared to be an accident.

The Gulfstream jet was supposed to take Bush, the father of President Bush, to Guayaquil, Ecuador, to make a speech to the chamber of commerce, Bush aide Tom Frechette said.

The trip was canceled after Bush, who lives in Houston, got word of the crash upon arriving at William P. Hobby Airport, he said.

"I was deeply saddened to learn of the plane crash this morning," Bush said in a statement. "I have flown with this crew before and know them well. I join in sending heartfelt condolences to each and every member of their families."

Witnesses said the jet, owned by a Tulsa, Oklahoma, charter company, clipped a light tower on a Houston highway when it was approaching the airport in foggy weather. The jet left a trail of debris that struck several cars as it plunged to the ground.

The two pilots and a flight attendant on board were killed, but no one in the cars was hurt, officials said.

Houston airport spokesman Roger Smith said radio communications from the pilot indicated no problems before the plane went down.

"The pilot of this plane was talking with the personnel in the tower. As usual they go back and forth and at no point did the pilot say he was in distress. But when they were ready for him to talk again, he wasn't there," Smith said.

The NTSB team included NTSB Vice Chairman Mark Rosenker, who said flight data boxes had been found and appeared to be in good enough shape to help investigators determine the crash's cause.

"We are treating this at this moment as a transportation accident. We have no reason to believe it was anything other than that at this moment," he said.

Rosenker said it was standard procedure for FBI agents to help in a crash investigation.

"The FBI routinely comes to all aircraft accidents with us," he said.

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