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SUU flight instructors die in plane crash near Cedar City airport

CEDAR CITY — Two Southern Utah University flight instructors died Monday afternoon when the plane they were in crashed near Cedar City Regional Airport, the university and fire officials confirmed.

The two men were about 6 miles southwest of the airport around 1 p.m. when they crashed, according to the Cedar City Fire Department.

They were flying in a two-seat, single-engine Cessna 152, the National Transportation Safety Board said. The agency said it is investigating the fatal crash.

SUU spokeswoman Ellen Treanor said the plane crashed into Lake Quichapa, a dry lake that is muddier than usual because of recent rainfall. The dry lake area is flat, which would make it a desirable location for an emergency landing, Treanor said.

Weather around Cedar City was wet and overcast, but not overly windy at the time, she said.

"If it was dry, it would have been easier to land," Treanor said.

Residents who live about 200 yards from the crash called 911. The plane didn't hit any structures, Treanor said.

The Iron County Sheriff's Office responded to the scene of the crash, along with Cedar City fire crews.

Sheriff Mark Gower said the plane made hard impact with the ground. Both victims died at the scene of the crash, he said.

The men's names were not immediately released. Police planned to wait until Tuesday afternoon to release that information.

Treanor said the men in the plane were a chief fixed-wing flight instructor and a junior flight instructor for SUU's Professional Pilots Program.

The two men reportedly took off sometime around 11 or 11:30 a.m. They were likely returning to the airport when they crashed, Treanor said. The junior instructor had only been on the job for a matter of days, she said, and was performing a routine "checkout flight" with the senior instructor in preparation for taking on flight students of his own.

The senior instructor had more than 6,000 of hours of training and experience, and the Cessna they were using is standard for flight training industrywide, she said.

"Our hearts go out to the family and loved ones. A tragedy of this nature penetrates all of us deeply," SUU Provost Bradley Cook said in a statement.

The plane was reportedly owned by Utah-based Upper Limit Aviation, which has partnered with SUU since 2013.

The SUU Professional Pilots Program, part of the university's business school, also consists of a Cessna 172, Tecnam and Beechcraft Baron aircraft, and has six planes in all.

Contributing: Chris Larson

Email: blockhart@deseretnews.com

Twitter: benlockhartnews