UPDATES: This is a developing story and this post is being updated continuously as the incident unfolds and information becomes available. Refresh the page for updates.
SANTA CLARA — A small airplane has crashed in the desert near the City of Santa Clara Wednesday morning. Life Flight had located the wreckage of the plane by 11:48 a.m. southwest of the city.
UPDATE: 8 p.m.: “At this time we are able to confirm the aircraft involved in the incident was a single engine, fixed wing plane,” the Washington County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. “The aircraft is registered to a flight school based out of the St George area. At this point we are unaware of any radio traffic or emergency beacons indicating the aircraft was in distress prior to the incident. The Sheriff’s Office will continue to work with investigators from the FAA to try and determine the cause of the accident.”
UPDATE 5:30 p.m.: The bodies of the victims have been recovered. Due to harsh terrain, a helicopter was used in the retrieval process.
“Although initial notification has been made to the families, it is the policy of the Sheriffs Office to withhold the names for at least 24 hours to allow the families to notify next of kin,” the Washington County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. ” Additional information regarding the victims will be made available some time tomorrow.”
Story continues below | Note: this video was compiled before the bodies were retrieved
Videocast by Mori Kessler, St. George News
Updated 4:40 p.m. – Ongoing Investigation: An emergency response team staged Wednesday morning at the Cove Wash Trailhead in the Santa Clara River Reserve with relation to the crash.
The terrain is affecting the recovery and the investigation, Washington County Sheriff’s Sgt. Dave Crouse said. Since the crashed airplane is on the slope of a hill, Search and Rescue crews are assisting with the recovery and processing the evidence, Crouse said.
“Getting the personnel out there is obviously an obstacle that we’re having to overcome.”
Thankfully, Crouse said, Search and Rescue and Bureau of Land Management members are there, specifically, a high-angle team from Search and Rescue.
The Federal Aviation Administration has been notified and will be working with Washington County Sheriff’s Office Detectives in the investigation of the incident. Members of the Santa Clara Fire Department were also on scene.
UPDATED 2:50 p.m – Witness Statement: The plane was in the air, started sputtering and just dropped straight down, witness Jonathan Hawkins said in a media interview after the incident.
The airplane went down behind a ridge so Hawkins didn’t see the actual crash. After calling 911 and attempting to call the FAA he rode his bike up to the plane crash.
Around 9 a.m. Hawkins was starting a bike ride with his brother on the Barrel Roll Trail in the Santa Clara River Reserve. He saw the plane go down and he and his brother called 911 and attempted to call the Federal Aviation Administration. Hawkins then rode up on the trail, and saw the plane crash about 3/4 of the way up the side of a hill.
Hawkins went over to the hill and yelled to see if anybody would answer him, but no one answered. Hawkins was across a wash, about 2/10 of a mile from the crash when he yelled, he said.
He never saw any movement.
“I couldn’t get over by it,” Hawkins said, “I told them I’d go for help.” Hawkins then rode down, borrowed a phone and waited for emergency personnel to show up.
UPDATE 1:35 p.m: There were two occupants confirmed dead in the crash according to a press release from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. Additional information regarding the victims will be available following the notification of next of kin.
This report is based on preliminary information from emergency responders, other agencies and does not presume to contain the full scope of findings.
St. George News reporter Drew Allred contributed to this report.
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