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At least 6 believed dead in Arizona plane crash

November 23, 2011|By Stephen Ceasar, Rick Rojas, Ashley Powers, Ruben Vives and Andrew Blankstein | Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

Authorities believe at least six people were killed when a small plane crashed into the Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix on Wednesday.

The crash happened about 5:30 p.m., witnesses said.

A spokesman for the Pinal County Sheriff's Office, Elias Johnson, said six people were aboard the private aircraft, all believed to be members of the same family.

He did not think there were any survivors, but said, "It's too early to tell. We hope to God someone survived."

Johnson said at a news conference that the plane crashed near Flatiron, where a wildfire apparently sparked by the crash was burning out of control.

Emergency crews were struggling to reach the crash site in the rugged mountains about 40 miles east of downtown Phoenix. A 12-person rescue crew began hiking to the site about 9 p.m., a sheriff's official said. He estimated that it would take them at least six hours to reach the scene.

The plane, a twin-engine Rockwell AC69, had taken off from Falcon Field in Mesa, authorities said. Its registered owner is Ponderosa Aviation Inc. of Safford, Ariz., according to FAA records.

The mountainous region near Lost Dutchman State Park and the Superstition wilderness features steep canyons and popular hiking trails. It is a favorite of treasure hunters who have frequented the area in search of the fabled Lost Dutchman gold mine for more than a century.

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