Six people, including three children, are feared dead after a plane crashed into Arizona's Superstition Mountains Wednesday evening on the occasion of Thanksgiving. According to the Pinal County sheriff, the small plane plowed into the mile-high mountains east of Phoenix while going around 200 mph.
The body of one child has been recovered and "it is not hopeful" there are any survivors because of the nature of the crash and explosion, said Sheriff Paul Babeu.
“This is their entire family – it's terrible," Babeu said in a statement. "Our hearts go out to the mom and the (families) of all the crash victims. We have has so many people that are working this day, and we just want to support them and embrace them and try to bring closure to this tragedy."
According to reports, the pilot, believed to be the children’s father, was returning home with his family for the holiday when the tiny two-engine plane crashed in the ominously-named mountain range. The impact was so severe that it split the plane and caused a massive fireball that could be seen for miles around.
Authorities said search-and-rescue workers were present at the scene of the Arizona plane crash on Thanksgiving morning and were at work looking for bodies. The Pinal County Sheriff Department's Elias Johnson, who was at the crash scene, said in a statement that the rescue team wasn’t able to recover the bodies at night due to the rugged area where the plane crashed, in the Flatiron part of the Superstition Mountains east of Apache Junction.
Crews were "rappelling down to the fuselage" of the plane that smashed into the side of a mountain Wednesday night. "The main part of the plane is still intact," Johnson said. "Nose down in a crevice in the canyon."
He added that although authorities were holding out hope "somebody's still alive in there, we don't anticipate it." He added, "It's pretty well burned up."
"I personally made a visit and notification" to the mother "with the information we had late last night," he said. The dead include the pilot and his three children - two boys and a girl age 5 to 9. The father lived in Safford in southeastern Arizona and owned a small aviation business there. The woman, who is divorced from the children's father, lives in Mesa and is also a pilot. Johnson said names of the victims should be available by the afternoon.
The Superstition Mountains' elevation is about 5,000 feet at their highest level. Apache myth holds that the mountains contain a hole that is an entrance to the underworld.