ERIE, Colo. (AP) - All five people aboard a small plane that crashed near an airport north of Denver have died, a spokesman for the National Transportation Board said.
The Piper PA-46 airplane crashed near the Erie Municipal Airport about 11:50 a.m., NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson said Sunday afternoon. Shortly after the crash, three people were declared dead at the scene and two were taken to hospitals.
The Boulder Daily Camera reports that their names and ages are being withheld by the Weld County Coroner's Office pending notification of relatives.
Erie Police Cmdr. Lee Mathis said the six-passenger plane crashed a few hundred yards northwest of the runway, but he did not know if it was landing or taking off. A photo of the crash site posted on the Boulder Daily Camera's website showed the mangled wreckage of the plane, which crashed into a grassy field.
Jan Culver told the newspaper she was with a friend in a pasture near the airport when she heard the plane and saw it flying "really, really low."
"We heard it sputtering," she said. "Then there was no sound. We knew it was a crash."
She saw a small cloud of dust as the plane crashed and, because she has some medical knowledge, went to the scene to help, Culver said.
"It was a plane upside down with some folks already out of the plane," she said. "I could tell there were some bad injuries."
The Denver Post reported that NTSB records show the airport was the scene of three crashes in 2013 and two in 2012. None of those incidents had a fatality.
The last fatality at the airport was in May 2011, when 64-year-old Christian R. Hansen crashed on takeoff in a plane he was demonstrating for a potential buyer, according to the newspaper. The autopsy indicated Hansen had a heart attack.
The NTSB is investigating Sunday's crash. Erie is about 20 miles north of Denver.