By Lauren Clark and FOX 10 Staff
LOST DUTCHMAN STATE PARK, Ariz. – Two people are dead after an early morning plane crash in the Superstition Mountains on June 10.
Investigators say a single-engine plane went down around 7:51 a.m., and they’re still trying to piece together what happened.
Of course, it was a tragic day for two families.
Both officials and witnesses describe this aircraft as being in a group of three planes flying in formation. The two other planes and passengers inside are seemingly OK.
Per the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the plane is a Compagnie Daher TB 30 EPSILON airplane, and they still don’t know why it went down.
The NTSB says the accident site was on rocky and mountainous terrain, and the crash site was consumed by fire.
The cause of the crash is still unknown.
‘Three planes come behind the mountain and two of them come out’
“I noticed the planes flying…they are flying formation,” said Hakki Kalpak, a witness.
Kalpak says he was walking a trail with his dog Sadie and his wife when he saw three planes over the Superstition Mountains.
“And I said to her, literally, I said, it’s so nice to be flying so beautiful day, and they were going right over the mountain.”
Then minutes later, they noticed a thin, black pillar of smoke.
“There were three planes flying, and that’s when we realized it might have been one of them. Three planes come behind the mountain and two of them come out.”
Another witness, Jack Olson, said, “I stepped out briefly on my driveway and saw smoke coming off of the mountain.”
Olson, who lives nearby, says he went to see what happened.
“The place was packed with emergency vehicles, fire and rescue, the whole works.”
And a helicopter with the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office rushed to the site. There, crews discovered what the NTSB later confirmed, the two passengers inside had died.
Officials with the FAA say the three aircraft took off earlier at Falcon Field in nearby Mesa. They were reportedly heading to Payson.
“There’s a lot more we don’t know than what we do know at this time,” said pilot Reed Yadon.
Yadon says NTSB investigators will be examining a number of possible factors.
“Was it an aircraft malfunction? Was it weather related? Or was it something else?”
Investigators will methodically look at aircraft records and interview those involved.
“The other two pilots will probably be able to supply some information to the NTSB as to what may have happened. Were they communicating among themselves at the time, and I imagine they will get good data from the other two pilots,” said Yadon.
Kalpak sends his condolences to the loved ones facing the devastating news.
“It’s very sad, I mean, you start thinking, someone is out there enjoying a beautiful day, and then all of a sudden a tragedy.”
We’re expecting more preliminary information from the NTSB in two to three weeks. Their final investigation, including the probable cause, will take anywhere from a year to two years to complete.
Anyone who witnessed the accident is asked to contact witness@NTSB.gov.
Crash brings tragic parallels
The crash is hearkening memories of another tragedy in the same rugged terrain. A 2011 plane crash claimed the lives of six, including three children and their father before Thanksgiving.
“There’s Payson, Falcon Field, and supposedly the accident happened down here somewhere …,” Jim Timm recounted.
He’s a pilot and the executive director of the Arizona Pilots Association.
His decades of experience tell him there are several distinctions between the two.
Like different conditions.
“This wasn’t at night. This was in the morning where you had excellent visibility, where you can see what was out in front of you,” Timm said.
Different technology is also now available – although the plane’s technology, in this case, isn’t exactly known.
“You don’t fly with paper maps anymore. I don’t know of anybody that does,” he said. “Everybody flies with reference to electronic visualization.”
For now, what happened in the sky and why, remains unknown.
“At the moment there are an awful lot of questions that are unanswerable. It will take a little bit of time and careful investigation to find out what really happened to cause the accident to occur,” Timm said.