At least 14 people, half of them children were killed when a small plane crashed into a cemetery in Butte, Montana and burst into flames, authorities in California said.
The single-engine plane, a Pilatus PC-12 was headed to Bozeman, Montana, but rerouted to Butte instead and crashed 500 feet short of the runway at Butte’s Bert Mooney Airport, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Mike Fergus said.
A photograph taken by an eyewitness moments after the crash and broadcast on CNN showed a fireball blazing through a grove of trees near a cemetery a short distance from the crash site.
“We watched this plane just take a nose-dive right into the cemetery,” witness Martha Guidoni told CNN. She and her husband Steve rushed to the scene of the crash to see if anybody could be helped, but she said: “We were too late. There was nothing to help.”
Steve Guidoni said when he got to the crash site “everything was on fire.
“And there wasn’t much left of the plane, actually. It was embedded in the ground. It went into the ground. It caught a big tree on fire. “I looked to see if there was anybody I could pull out, but there wasn’t nothing there.”
A reporter from the Montana Standard newspaper cited local emergency officials as saying the plane was carrying a group of young children en route to a ski vacation in Bozeman, Montana.
Speculation has centered on whether the Pilatus PC-12 was carrying too heavy a load as experts said the plane could only carry 11 people.
"This aircraft is only certified for nine passengers," aviation attorney Mary Schiavo, a former federal inspector, said on CNN. "Granted, they said that they were children, but unless people were holding them in their laps, which is not a safe way to fly, only nine passengers and two crew," she said.
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