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Bodies of 4 plane victims found

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Authorities recovered the bodies of four people killed in a plane crash in the LaSal Mountains.

The bodies were taken to the Utah State Medical Examiner's Office to be identified. It appears the plane burned upon impact, leaving little evidence for investigators, according to the San Juan County Sheriff's Office.

Rancher Curtis Wilcox discovered the plane about 9:30 a.m. Saturday near LaSal after he saw a small plume of smoke on his property, a press release from the sheriff's office states. He hiked to the spot and found the wreckage, then walked back to his vehicle to drive to a phone, where he called police at 9:54 a.m.

Wilcox then escorted searchers to the crash site, where they recovered the bodies, according to the sheriff's office.

The Piper Arrow airplane went down Thursday night over the LaSal Mountains, Utah's second-highest range with peaks topping 12,000 feet. The plane was last heard from after broadcasting a brief Mayday message about 10:30 p.m. en route from Longmont, Colo., to Las Vegas.

San Juan County Search and Rescue and the Colorado Civil Air Patrol searched a 6 square-mile area covered with cedar trees, deep ravines and rocky ledges without finding the plane.

Air searchers also spent six hours flying over the area trying to pick up a signal from the plane's emergency locator transponder.

On Friday night, authorities called off the search, which resumed again Saturday morning with the civil air patrol, San Juan County Sheriff's Office and a Utah Highway Patrol helicopter.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the cause of the crash.

E-mail: djensen@desnews.com