By Paul Roberts

Investigators now say four people died Friday in the crash of a small plane that appears to have broken up in midair before striking a field in Snohomish County.

Two deaths were initially reported by emergency responders who reached the wreckage of the Cessna 208B, which crashed at around 10:20 a.m. east of Harvey Field Airport in Snohomish County, about an hour after taking off from Renton, according to police accounts and aviation websites.

But Saturday morning, the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office said “additional examination of the wreckage” had confirmed that four people had been aboard the plane and all four had perished.

One witness said the aircraft appeared to have broken apart and caught fire before the crash.

Woodinville resident David Orendorff was at Snohomish Golf Course on Friday morning when he said he “heard a pop and looked south [and] saw the plane emitting lots of smoke. It was spiraling down. It was followed by the detached wing.”

Orendorff said, “the plane disappeared behind trees and then I heard the impact.”

Drone footage posted by Fox News 13 shows the badly burned wreckage in a field next to an irrigation ditch. The wreckage of what appears to be a wing lies roughly 100 yards away.

The Snohomish County medical examiner is working to identify the victims, and the crash is under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration. Sheriff’s Office personnel were assisting at the scene with evidence recovery, O’Keefe said.

Investigators have yet to release many details about the aircraft or its owner. But according to FlightAware, an aviation tracking website, a Cessna 208B with identifier tail number N2069B took off from Renton Municipal Airport at around 9:25 a.m.

route map on FlightAware shows the aircraft flew north to the Everett area where it completed several large circles and a series of ascents, descents, accelerations and decelerations before dropping 5,100 feet at around 10:20 a.m. The map shows the flight ending near Highway 2.

The pattern maneuvers and speed changes recorded on FlightAware could indicate that the aircraft was conducting some kind of test flight, according to several local pilots and an online expert in aviation safety who had viewed the route data.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration website, aircraft N2069B was owned by Copper Mountain Aviation of Alaska. Contact information for Copper Mountain was not immediately available, and a message sent to the company Saturday via an online business directory had not received a response by late afternoon.

The first people to reach the crash tried to put out the fire with handheld fire extinguishers, but were thwarted by the “large volume of fire,” fire district officials said. 

When first responders arrived, they struggled to reach the wreckage due to the “terrain, vegetation and irrigation canals,” officials said.

Officials briefly closed Highway 2 from 88th Street Southeast to Westwick Road after the crash, which occurred near the roadway.