BUTTE, Mont. (AP) - A small plane crashed Sunday as it approached an airport in Montana, killing 17 people, including several children, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman said.
The single engine turboprop plane crashed about 500 feet from the airport in Butte while attempting to land, said spokesman Mike Fergus. The Montana Standard reported in an online story that it crashed in Butte's Holy Cross Cemetery.
The aircraft had departed from Oroville, Calif., and the pilot had filed a flight plan showing a destination of Bozeman. But the pilot canceled his flight plan at some point and headed for Butte, Fergus said.
Preliminary reports indicate the dead include numerous children, he said. There were no known fatalities on the ground, he added.
"We think that it was probably a ski trip for the kids," Fergus said.
The plane was registered to Eagle Cap Leasing Inc. in Enterprise, Ore., Fergus said. He didn't know who was operating the plane.
Calls to local authorities were not immediately returned.
Witnesses told the Standard that they saw the plane go into a nosedive into the cemetery.
Martha and Steve Guidoni, who were at a gas station across from the cemetery, said the plane "just nose-dived into the ground."
"My husband went over there to see if he could do anything," Martha Guidoni said.
Fergus said the Pilatus PC-12 aircraft was manufactured in 2001. He said the National Transportation Safety Board has an investigator located in Butte who was thought to be on scene. The FAA's flight standards investigator was en route.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)