Fatal collision: Six members of the same family are feared dead after a plane crashed into Arizona's Superstition Mountains
A small plane plowed into Arizona’s famed Superstition Mountains Wednesday night killing six people and causing a fireball that could be seen miles away, authorities said.
Three of the casualties were children, according to the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office.
The Thanksgiving eve tragedy unfolded at about 6:30 p.m., Arizona time, dealing rescue crews a challenge to reach the wreckage in rugged high terrain 45 miles east of Phoenix.
Witnesses said the twin-engine plane and a second aircraft were flying around the mountain when the accident unfolded.
“The one little plane kept going straight and the other one turned and came back and disappeared for a minute. All of a sudden, it hit,” Carla Machajewski of Apache Junction at the base of mountains told reporters.
Video of the crash taken by a security camera at the base of the mountains was posted on YouTube and showed a fireball lighting up desert sky.
Pinal County Sheriff's spokesman Elias Johnson said rescue crews reached the flaming wreckage by helicopter. He said the plane, Rockwell AC69, appeared to have disintegrated on impact.
He said there appeared to be no survivors.
The plane was registered to Ponderosa Aviation Inc. of Safford, Ariz. A worker who answered the phone at the company declined to comment.
The Federal Aviation Administration said the plane had just taken off from nearby Falcon Field in Mesa when it crashed into a 3,000-foot peak called Flat Iron.
The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board were sending teams to investigate the cause of the accident.
The picturesque Superstition Mountains are a popular destination for rock climbers and hikers and have a legendary history.
The Apaches Indians believe portal to the netherworld is located in the mountains.
According to folklore, a German gold prospector named Jacob Walzer discovered a mother lode in the mountains and only revealed its location while on his deathbed in 1891. But Walzer’s so-called Lost Dutchman’s mine has never been verified.