NEWS LIVE: This report contains news live as it develops and is being updated continuously. Bookmark and refresh the page periodically for updates. Last update: 12:12 a.m. MDT Monday.
VIRGIN RIVER GORGE, Arizona — A private airplane crashed upon a ledge in the Virgin River Gorge at about 7:35 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time Sunday in the area of Interstate 15 at mile post 13.3 – 4.7 miles north of Littlefield, Arizona – just beyond the northbound entrance into the Virgin River Gorge.
At 9:30 p.m. MDT traffic was not blocked and was moving through the Gorge.
Two deaths have been confirmed by the Fire Department, Arizona Highway Patrol Sgt. John T. Bottoms said. The bodies are burned beyond recognition, so responders are not yet able to determine gender. It is believed the people died on impact, he said, not from the fire that occurred afterward.
About 75 people are on scene as witnesses to the crash, a couple of who were able to climb up to the crash after it occurred.
“Witnesses that were on Interstate 15 said the plane was traveling southbound and a couple of the witnesses said they didn’t hear an engine noise so we can speculate that maybe it was out of fuel or something, but we have no idea,” Bottoms said from the response area on I-15 below the crash site. “It came around this last curve of the Gorge and for whatever reason crashed into a ledge that is just around the corner from where we’re standing.”
Billy and Dawn Brents, from Arkansas, were traveling I-15 through the Gorge before the plane crashed.
“We were watching the plane and made the comment that it was flying really low and it looked like they were trying to get the plane stable,” Dawn Brents wrote in an email. “The wind was gusting. You need to blow the picture up (see photo inset – photo cropped). Maybe a couple of minutes later we saw smoke around the corner when we were coming down the hill. When we rounded the corner we saw the plane in flames.”
Fire fighters climbed the mountainside to get to the fire and were still addressing flames at about 8:45 p.m. MDT using bladder bags to extinguish the fire.
The plane was a small 4-seater aircraft. The tail number is partially burned, so responders have not yet identified where the plane was flying from.
“At this time the only thing I can confirm is that there is a downed aircraft in the gorge,” a Public Information Unit officer of the Arizona Department of Public Safety wrote in an 8:20 p.m. MDT email.
Responders from the Beaver Dam Fire Department, Mohave County Sheriff’s office, and Arizona Highway Patrol are currently on scene.
The Federal Aviation Administration will conduct the crash investigation.
This report is based on preliminary information provided by law enforcement or other emergency responders and may not contain the full scope of findings. It is being updated as information is being received, and readers may refresh for most current information.
St. George News Editor-in-Chief Joyce Kuzmanic and Reporter Drew Allred contributed to this report.
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