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Four people killed in plane crash in Kane County; brings year total to 13

KANE COUNTY — A single-engine aircraft crashed in a remote area of Kane County Tuesday, killing all four people on board.

The incident marks the second crash involving a single-engine plane and multiple fatalities in southern Utah in less than a week and the third in a month. In total, the three southern Utah plane crashes resulted in the deaths of 11 people.

Thirteen people have been killed in plane crashes already this year in Utah, compared to 11 in all of 2011, according to statistics from the National Transportation Safety Board.

The latest incident happened Tuesday about 3 p.m. A Cirrus SR20 took off from Las Vegas just before 11 a.m. headed to Bryce Canyon, according to Allen Kenitzer, of the Federal Aviation Administration.

After the plane failed to arrive at its destination, the company that owns the aircraft reported it missing, Kenitzer said. The plane is registered to Hunt Aviation LLC out of Las Vegas, according to the FAA registry.

A signal from the plane's emergency transmitter beacon was received by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Rescue Center located in Florida, according to the Kane County Sheriff's Office. The Civil Air Patrol located in St. George was notified just before 6 p.m. and a crew of three flew over the area and confirmed the location of the crash site by about 8 p.m. and took pictures.

"The wreckage was scattered over quite a wide area. It looked like it impacted quite hard," said Lt. Col. Max Kieffer with Civil Air Patrol, who was the incident commander. "The crew could see no movement or any indication of survivors."

The wreckage was found in a rugged area on a ridge-top about 18 miles north of state Route 9 and East North Fork Road, northeast of Zion National Park. Kane County sheriff's officials went to the area, but waited until Wednesday to recover the bodies because of darkness and the terrain.

A possible cause for the crash was not immediately known. The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board will both investigate the incident.

Bryce Canyon Airport manager Greg Pollock said there had been several crash landings in the area over the past two weeks. On most of those days, he said, there were strong winds blowing.

While the vast majority of emergency landings result in no injuries, Pollock said it is still a tricky area for pilots.

"The big challenge is the terrain itself. If you are not close to a meadow or a dirt road or one of the highways, the terrain is so rugged that is really decreases your chance of survival if you have to make a forced landing," he said.

Additional information will be posted as it becomes available.

The crash comes just three days after a single-engine Cessna 172 crashed at the St. George Municipal Airport, killing all four on board. The crash was believed to have happened about 1:30 a.m. Saturday about 300 feet from the runway.

The accident wasn't discovered until 6 a.m.

Despite the recent crashes that resulted in eight fatalities, Kieffer said the single-engine aircrafts were safe, as long as safety rules were followed.

"There is an area where a pilot can put more on-board an airplane than it should have, especially here in the high mountains," Kieffer said. "Me personally, I would not fly with four passengers in this altitude with a 172 Cessna."

The NTSB investigation will determine if excessive weight may have played a role in the crash.

Based on his experience, Kieffer said most crashes can't be solely pinpointed on one cause.

"Usually the pilot will make two or three mistakes before getting into real trouble. It's usually a chain of events that lead up to an accident. It's usually not just one thing. That's what we've found," he said.

This year is turning into a particularly fatal one for small planes in Utah.

On Feb. 9, a Wyoming couple was killed when their Cessna 210 crashed near the Morgan County Airport. On April 25, a single-engine Cessna 185 crashed south of Blanding, killing the pilot and two passengers.

On May 1, two people received minor injuries when a Cessna T210 crashed and flipped over about 17 miles southwest of Provo Airport. A flight instructor was helping a student practice stall maneuvers when the aircraft went down.

The NTSB recorded 32 aviation accidents in Utah in 2011, totaling 11 fatalities. So far in 2012, there have been seven aviation accidents recorded by the NTSB resulting in 13 deaths.

Prior to this year, the last plane crash in Utah that claimed the lives of four people was June 1, 2011, in Wendover. Four men in a Cessna 172 crashed while attempting to land in Wendover. Heavy winds played a role in the crash according to officials.


Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam