REVISED 3:50 p.m. unnecessary graphic description of the crash removed.
UPDATED 2:20 p.m. to include further information provided by Mortensen.
UPDATED 11:40 a.m. to reflect interview with Ian Gregor, Communications Manager for the FAA Western-Pacific Region, and further interview with Mortensen.
ST. GEORGE – During a routine security check by St. George Municipal Airport operations at 6 a.m. today, an aircraft was discovered 300 feet off the south end of the runway in the dirt area.
Assistant to the city manager, Marc Mortensen, said that sometime in the middle of the night the single engine fixed-wing private aircraft crashed.
Mortensen said the number of persons who died in the crash is unconfirmed at this point.
“The pilot is obviously deceased,” Mortensen said, “anyone involved in the wreck would have been killed on impact.”
Mortensen said they have a tail number for the plane and that next of kin are being contacted.
City officials have closed off the road that is adjacent to the crash site, Mortensen said, both because the crash site is tragic and to preserve it for investigation.
The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are conducting the investigation.
St. George News has contacted the NTSB and the FAA, responses are pending and will be ongoing.
Ian Gregor, Communications Manager for the FAA Western-Pacific Region, wrote in an email reply to St. George News that a single-engine Cessna 172 crashed under unknown circumstances at St. George Airport early Saturday morning.
Gregor also wrote about a certain number of fatalities being reported by local authorities. The City of St. George remains firm, as of 11:45 a.m., in declining to confirm the number of bodies involved. Mortensen said it is not possible to give confirmation of a number of persons at this time. He confirmed that there are more than just the pilot.
Gregor wrote in his email, “we are not certain what phase of flight the aircraft was in when it crashed. I also cannot confirm a tail numb er at this time.”
The FAA and NTSB will investigate this accident. Investigators from both agencies will be on site later today. NTSB is the lead investigative agency. Gregor’s communication noted that it typically takes the NTSB months to come up with a probable cause for accidents. He also wrote that neither the FAA nor NTSB will release crash victims’ identities.
UPDATE 2:20 p.m. Mortensen said the city has now confirmed there were four victims of this crash. Mortensen said not all of the bodies have yet been identified. Officials are having a hard time locating next of kin of the identified victims. They are not releasing any names yet.
Mortensen said that the St. George Municipal Airport has been on an automated air traffic control system for years, just as thousands of municipal airports are across the country. There is not frequent enough traffic to justify a manned control tower around the clock.
He said no determination as to factors for the crash has been made, whether wind or otherwise.
Copyright 2012 St. George News.