Montana plane crash
A small plane — possibly carrying children on a ski trip — crashed Sunday as it approached the Butte airport, killing 17 people, including several children, a federal official said. Witnesses said the single engine turboprop nosedived into a cemetery 500 feet from its destination.
The aircraft crashed and burned while attempting to land, said Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Mike Fergus. The Montana Standard reported in an online story that it crashed in Holy Cross Cemetery.
The aircraft had departed from Oroville, Calif., and the pilot had filed a flight plan showing a destination of Bozeman, about 85 miles southeast of Butte. But the pilot canceled his flight plan at some point and headed for Butte, Fergus said.
Preliminary reports indicate the dead include numerous children, he said. There were no known fatalities on the ground, he added.
"We think that it was probably a ski trip for the kids," Fergus said.
Martha and Steve Guidoni, who were at a gas station across from the cemetery, told the Standard that the plane "just nose-dived into the ground."
"My husband went over there to see if he could do anything," Martha Guidoni said.
Fergus said the Pilatus PC-12 aircraft was manufactured in 2001.
The plane was registered to Eagle Cap Leasing Inc. in Enterprise, Ore., Fergus said. He didn't know who was operating the plane.
I. Felkamp is listed in Oregon corporate records as Eagle Cap's president. Attempts to reach him by phone were unsuccessful.
In California, Tom Hagler said he saw a group of about a dozen children and four adults Sunday morning at the Oroville Municipal Airport, about 70 miles north of Sacramento.
Hagler, owner of Table Mountain Aviation, described the children as ranging from about 6- to 10 year olds. He let the children into his building to use the restroom.
"There were a lot of kids in the group," he said. "A lot of really cute kids."
Hagler said he showed the pilot where he could fuel his plane, and the pilot said he expected his flight to take two-and-a-half hours. The pilot didn't file a flight plan at the Oroville airport.
National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Keith Holloway said its investigators were expected to arrive in Butte late Sunday or early Monday.
The crash is the fourth major plane accident in slightly more than three months.
On Dec. 20, Continental Airlines plane veered off a runway and slid into a snowy field at Denver International Airport, injuring 37 people. No one was killed. In January, a US Airways jetliner landed in New York's Hudson River after a flock of geese disabled both its engines. All 155 people onboard survived. Last month, commuter plane fell on a house in a suburb of Buffalo, N.Y., killing all 49 passengers and a man in the home.
Before the Buffalo crash there hadn't been an accident involving a commercial airliner in the U.S. in which there were fatalities in more than two years.