5 killed in plane crash north of Denver

Five people were killed when a small plane crashed near an airport north of Denver Sunday, according to a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board.

Peter Knudson said the Piper PA-46 airplane crashed near the Erie Municipal Airport, approximately 20 miles north of Colorado's capital, at about 11:50 a.m. local time. Three of the victims were pronounced dead at the scene, while the other two were taken to local hospitals.

KDVR and the Denver Post reported that a dog also died in the crash. The identities of the victims are being withheld by authorities pending notification of next of kin. The Boulder Daily Camera reported that the six-passenger plane is registered to Boulder-based company The Real Estate School LLC. The company is owned by real estate lawyer Oliver Frascona, who lives next to the airport where the crash occurred.

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 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 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 Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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