IMAGE: Plane slams into truck
Bill Swaim / Daily Press via AP
Smoke billows from a single-engine plane after it slammed into an unoccupied truck parked on a residential street in Montrose, Colo., on Monday.
updated 7/4/2006 6:49:08 AM ET 2006-07-04T10:49:08

A small plane crashed into a tractor-trailer rig parked on a residential street Monday and burst into flames, killing both people aboard, authorities said.

No one on the ground was injured, said Allen Weese, Montrose Fire Protection battalion chief.

Levi Hawks, a long-haul trucker who owns the tractor-trailer cab, said he didn’t see the crash just outside his home.

“There was this big bang and my wife yells, ‘Oh my God, the truck is on fire,”’ he said.

Neighbor Nancy Weese, the fire battalion chief’s mother, said the plane would have smashed into her house if Hawks’ truck hadn’t been there. She said that burning fuel spilled onto her lawn and that the fire was so intense it wasn’t immediately clear that a plane had hit.

“I just thank the Lord the truck was there,” she said.

Below flight path
The neighborhood is below the flight path to Montrose Regional Airport, Montrose County sheriff’s spokesman Dick Deines said.

The victims were identified as David Gibson, 61, a prominent architect from Aspen, and Larry Smalley, 65, a flight instructor from Rifle with more than 40 years flying experience, Montrose County Coroner Mark Young said.

Gibson had bought the plane about a week ago and was working to gain 15 hours of flight experience, including “stop and go” landings with the six-passenger plane for insurance purposes, Young said.

Young said some witnesses reported the plane’s engine was sputtering or had stopped. He said a preliminary investigation indicates the propeller wasn’t powered when it crashed.

The Montrose airport, about 180 miles southwest of Denver, was the scene of a November 2004 crash that killed the son of NBC Sports executive Dick Ebersol and two others. The NTSB said ice on the wings was a factor in that crash.

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