A single-engine airplane crashed near Butte, Montana, on Sunday, killing at least 17 people, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman said.
The Pilatus PC-12 left Oroville, California, at 11 a.m. PT for Bozeman, Montana, but rerouted to Butte instead, FAA spokesman Mike Fergus said. The plane crashed 500 feet short of the runway at Bert Mooney Airport.
Preliminary information indicates the pilot did not declare an emergency aboard the plane before the crash, Fergus said.
The plane, manufactured in 2001, was registered to Eagle Cap Leasing in Enterprise, Oregon, according to the FAA. Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board were at the scene.
According to The Montana Standard newspaper, a fireman said the plane may have been carrying several children on their way to a ski vacation.
Martha Guidoni told CNN she and her husband witnessed the plane crash at a cemetery by the airport, though the FAA says the crash was outside the cemetery. A photograph she took of the scene shows the cemetery in the foreground of a huge blaze. See a map of Butte, Montana »
“We were just taking a ride, and all of a sudden, we watched this plane just take a nosedive,” she told CNN. “We drove into the cemetery to see if there was any way my husband could help someone, and we were too late. There was nothing to help.”
Her husband, Steve Guidoni, who went to the scene of the crash, said the plane “went into the ground” and caught a tree on fire.
“I looked to see if there was anybody I could pull out, but there wasn’t anything there, I couldn’t see anything,” he told CNN. “There was some luggage strewn around … there was some plane parts.”