Plane crashes into Arizona mountain; fires burning

Story highlights

  • Plane crashes on Arizona mountain
  • Site is very remote and fires were burning
  • Man said he witnessed crash, huge ball of fire
An airplane crashed Wednesday evening into a rugged mountain east of Phoenix, creating a small wildfire that crews were unable to immediately reach, Arizona officials said.
The aircraft, possibly twin-engine, crashed around 6:30 p.m. in the Superstition Mountains near Apache Junction, said spokesman Elias Johnson of the Pinal County Sheriff's Office.
A man who said he witnessed the impact told CNN that a mushroom cloud of flames lit up the evening sky.
It's a six-hour hike to the site and crews were uncertain how many people were on the plane or its destination, Johnson told reporters. He indicated crews will be in a recovery operation.
A ranger dropped near the scene saw a tire from the plane that suggests it was not a commercial aircraft, he said.
"This is some of the toughest country you can experience," Johnson said. There were at least two debris fields. "That plane is all over the place up there."
Kevin Cunningham, 44, of Apache Junction, said he was talking on the phone from his back porch and saw the crash a few miles away.
"The flames lit up the mountain," said Cunningham, adding the plane appeared to be flying level before the crash. "I didn't see where it was in distress."
The photogenic peak is popular with hikers and horseback riders, the resident said.
"Somebody didn't know the mountain was there or they had false readings," Cunningham speculated.