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Arizona plane crash: Crews search for bodies on Thanksgiving

November 24, 2011 |  9:12 am

Arizona plane crash.Floodlight illuminates the crash scene.

At the scene of the Arizona plane crash on Thanksgiving morning, search-and-rescue crews were at work looking for bodies, authorities said.

All six people aboard the plane are believed dead -- including a man and his two sons and daughter, ages 6 to 9. Two other adult men also are also believed dead. The body of one child was recovered overnight.

Crews were able to land a helicopter Thursday morning, said Elias Johnson of the Pinal County Sheriff's Department, who was at the crash scene. "We weren't able to do that last night" due to the rugged area where the plane crashed, in the Flatiron part of the Superstition Mountains east of Apache Junction.

One of the men believed dead, who co-piloting the twin-engine plane, had gone to Pinal County, where the mother of his children lives, to pick up the kids for the Thanksgiving holiday, Johnson said.

Crews were "rappelling down to the fuselage" of the plane that smashed into the side of a mountain Wednesday night: "The main part of the plane is still intact," Johnson said, "nose down in a crevice in the canyon."

Although authorities were holding out hope "somebody's still alive in there, we don't anticipate it," he added. "It's pretty well burned up."

Johnson estimated the plane had been traveling at 230 mph when it hit the face of the mountain. The fuel from the plane exploded and caused a small brush fire, which burned itself out in the rocky terrain, he said.

"I personally made a visit and notification" to the mother "with the information we had late last night," he said. The Pinal County sheriff remained at the scene as of 8:30 Thanksgiving morning to notify others as bodies were recovered. Johnson said names of the victims should be available by the afternoon.


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Photo: A floodlight illuminates a fire from a plane crash that Wednesday night in the Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix.  Credit: Michael Schennum / The Arizona Republic