Two men died when their light plane crashed just east of the Nephi Municipal Airport Friday night.

Juab County Sheriff David Carter identified the two as:David Nelson, 51, Orem, and

Gary Waite, 51, Las Vegas.

Carter said the plane was en route to Provo from Las Vegas when it began to exhibit mechanical problems and the men attempted an emergency landing at Nephi Municipal Airport at 8:21 p.m. Friday.

Carter said the craft was landing into the wind. It made a north approach heading to the south and crashed approximately 10 feet east of the runway in a hayfield that had not yet been harvested.

"Witnesses said a cloud of dust was seen and then the airplane burst into flames," he said.

Both occupants died at the scene as a result of fatal injuries received in the crash, Carter said, adding the cause of the accident is unknown. "We don't know if the pilot landed off-course, if there was a mechanical failure, or what may have been a factor in the accident."

The Federal Aviation Administration was notified and will investigate, Carter said.

Most of the aircraft was destroyed either by the impact or by the fire that followed. Carter and several deputies, along with the county fire marshal and Nephi City volunteer firemen all responded to the scene Friday evening.

Fire crews doused the burning aircraft and East Juab County medical technicians retrieved the two bodies.

"We spent the night digging through the wreckage," said Carter. "We did find a partial driver's license and we may have found the wing number, although we are not positive at this time that that is what we have."

"The plane hit the earth, rolled and ejected one occupant as it rolled. However, the individual was not thrown far from the aircraft and the explosion and fire burned the area where he was ejected."

Carter said a farmer from Delta who is farming the field where the accident occurred was cutting hay at the time. He and other witnesses said they saw a large cloud of dust followed by the explosion. Carter said it is still not clear who was flying the plane, which was registered in Las Vegas.

The state medical examiner will determine the exact cause of death, Carter said. "But we are fairly certain that the two men received fatal injuries in the crash and were dead when the fire occurred."

Carter said the men had radioed that they were having mechanical problems and that they were going to try to land in Nephi. "That was the last information that was received from the airplane before the crash."

He said investigators had not found a flight recorder. "We don't know if it was not functional or if it was not there but we do know that no signal was picked up by our highly sensitive instruments in the county."