IMAGE: PLANE CRASH
Pat Sullivan  /  AP
The remains of one of three people killed in a private jet crash are removed from the site near Houston's Hobby Airport on Monday.
updated 11/22/2004 7:58:02 PM ET 2004-11-23T00:58:02

A private jet that was en route to Houston to pick up former President Bush clipped a light pole and crashed Monday as it approached Hobby Airport in thick fog, killing all three people aboard.

The Gulfstream G-1159A jet, coming into Houston, went down about 6:15 a.m. in an undeveloped area 1½ miles south of the airport, officials said. The former president had been scheduled to travel to Ecuador for a conference.

“I was deeply saddened to learn of the plane crash this morning,” Bush said through spokesman Tom Frechette. “I’d flown with this group before and know them well. I join in sending heartfelt condolences to each and every member of their families.”

The names of the three crew members were not immediately released.

‘Black box’ recovered
The National Transportation Safety Board said the “black box” flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder had been recovered, and appeared to be in good enough shape to read the data.

Mark Rosenker, the NTSB’s vice chairman, said the agency would examine a number of factors, including the aircraft’s condition, what the pilots were doing and the weather.

He said standard toxicology tests would be performed on the bodies and FBI agents joined the investigation at the NTSB’s request, as is routine.

“We are treating this at this moment as a transportation accident. We have no reason to believe it is anything other than that,” Rosenker said.

Bush, who lives in Houston, was going to give a lecture for the Chamber of Commerce in Guayaquil, Ecuador, Frechette said, adding, “It’s very sad.” He said he was to have accompanied Bush, as was a Secret Service agent.

Earlier, Jack Williams, a district chief with the Houston Fire Department, confirmed three people had died.

Incident on approach
The jet, en route from Love Field in Dallas, was approaching the runway when it clipped the light pole, losing part of a wing, authorities said. Wreckage extended about 100 yards from there, Williams said.

The crash site is a field near the Beltway 8 tollway. No one on the ground was injured, but one car was hit with debris while another was hit with jet fuel, Williams said.

Roger Smith, a spokesman for the Houston Airport System, said the pilot didn’t indicate any problem, and the landing was routine until communications abruptly stopped. Dense fog blanketed most of the area.

Robert Randall, operations manager with the plane’s owner, Jet Place Inc. of Tulsa, Okla., said it had two male pilots and a female flight attendant aboard. The company has a fleet of 18 jets and employs about 150 people, he said.

Flight operations at Hobby Airport were not affected by the crash, officials said, but a portion of the heavily traveled tollway was closed.

Eduardo Maruri, president of the Guayaquil Chamber of Commerce, said that Bush postponed his visit until next month.

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