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Wreckage of medical plane found; 3 aboard believed dead

ALAMOSA, Colo. — Three people were believed dead after their medical plane slammed into a mountainside Friday, leaving wreckage described by rescuers as "catastrophic."

Archuleta County administrator Bob Campbell could not provide additional details, but said four crew members sent to the area by helicopter were trying to locate the victims.

The plane had disappeared during a flight from Chinle, Ariz., to Alamosa.

The wreckage was found in mountainous terrain just west of the Continental Divide near 11,677-foot high Charleys Peak, which is about 35 miles southwest of Alamosa.

High winds and fog prevented an air search Friday morning, but the weather cleared enough around noon for the search to begin, Archuleta Undersheriff John Weiss said. The plane was spotted about 1:45 p.m.

Barbara Anne Smith, a Conejos County sheriff administrator, said an emergency locator transponder helped pinpoint the plane's location.

Flight controllers lost radio and radar contact with the twin-engine Beech King Air C-90A at 11:20 p.m. Thursday, said Mike Fergus, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman. Its last known location was estimated at about 20 miles southwest of Alamosa.

A pilot, flight nurse and paramedic were on the plane, Fergus said. FAA spokesman Ian Gregor originally said the plane took off from Phoenix, but later said the plane was headed from Chinle, Ariz., to Alamosa.

The plane is registered to Scenic Aviation Inc. out of Blanding, which operates an air ambulance service called Eagle Air Med Inc. Its crew were on their way to pick up a patient in Alamosa, said Dustin Duncan of the International Association of Air Medical Services, who was acting as a spokesman for the company.

"We're trying to be optimistic and hopeful because we're all colleagues, we're all in the same line of work and it could be any one of us," Duncan said.

Duncan said the company has a plane based out of Alamosa, but that the Chinle-based plane was en route to pick up a patient because the other plane was on a call.

Alamosa is about 160 miles southwest of Denver.