Small plane crash in Utah kills 10

Sunday, August 24, 2008

MOAB, Utah -- A small plane crashed and burned shortly after takeoff, killing everyone on board, including the pilot and nine people who had spent the day working at a skin cancer clinic in remote community.

The twin-engine Beech King Air A-100 crashed shortly after takeoff Friday evening from Canyonlands Field airport, 18 miles northwest of Moab. It hit the ground in nearby hills, flattened and exploded on impact, authorities said.

Emergency responders rushed to the site to search for possible survivors and fight a brush fire that was apparently sparked by the crash.

The wreckage was little more than a pile of twisted, blackened shards of metal. Most of the debris on the otherwise-barren stretch of land was closely clustered and marked by yellow tape. One propeller was thrown about 20 feet from its engine.

"It's just weird. I mean, something happened to make this guy veer left off the runway," Grand County Sheriff James Nyland said.

National Transportation Safety Board investigator Tealeye Cornejo said she couldn't see how anyone could have survived the crash.

"The fire was so intense, there's not a lot of [the plane] left," she said.

Cornejo said investigators were trying to determine if the plane caught fire before or after it hit the ground.

On board were employees of a Southwest Skin and Cancer/Red Canyon Aesthetics & Medical Spa, a dermatology company based in Cedar City, 200 miles to the west, that traveled to remote areas to provide treatment for skin cancer and other ailments where it might otherwise be unavailable.

They had flown into Moab earlier Friday. The tourist town was among nine regular stops the team made throughout Utah, northern Arizona and Nevada.

Nyland identified those killed as pilot David White; the company's director, Dr. Lansing Ellsworth, 50, and his son Dallin Ellsworth, 23; David Goddard, 60, and his daughter Cecilee Goddard, 31; Mandy Johnson; Marcie Tillery, 29; Valerie Imlay, 52; Keith Shumway, 29; and Camie Vigil, 25.

"It is with disbelief that we struggle to comprehend the events of yesterday," the Ellsworth family said in a statement issued Saturday afternoon. Those from the company "provided much needed dermatology care to patients who might otherwise go without."

Linda Snow, the company's office manager in Cedar City, said, "We are just deeply saddened. These are individuals that were highly skilled and very professional in what they do, and they will be missed."

The airplane is owned by Leavitt Group Wings, part of the Cedar City-based Leavitt Group, an insurance brokerage. The dermatology group had a time-share agreement for use of the plane, said chief executive officer Dane Leavitt.

Pilot David White was a Leavitt Group Wings employee, Leavitt said.

"He was very well qualified. He'd flown that plane for hundreds of hours. He'd flown this route many times," Leavitt said.

The airplane was built in 1975 and was well-maintained, Leavitt said. His company has owned it for six years.

Moab is about 245 miles southeast of Salt Lake City.

Associated Press writers Mike Stark in Salt Lake City and Doug Alden in Cedar City contributed to this story.

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