updated 1/5/2007 7:11:35 AM ET 2007-01-05T12:11:35

A helicopter crew spotted the wreckage early Friday of a small airplane that had disappeared from radar about eight hours earlier while approaching Columbia’s main airport in the fog.

No survivors were found, the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department said. Three people were believed to have been on board.

The four-seat plane was about a mile from Columbia Metropolitan Airport when it was last seen around 11 p.m. Thursday, airport executive director Mike Flack said.

Dozens of sheriff’s deputies and emergency workers on foot and on four-wheelers scoured two square miles of woods west of the airport. The helicopter that finally spotted the wreckage shortly before dawn was equipped with a large spotlight and heat-sensing equipment, said Sheriff’s Maj. John Allard.

The plane had planned to land at Owens Field, a smaller airport near downtown Columbia, but it diverted to the city’s commercial airport about seven miles away because of the fog, sheriff’s Capt. Mike Gordon said.

The plane, a single-engine Cessna 182, was built in 1976 and was registered to Four Seasons LLC of Wilmington, Del., according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Witnesses in a nearby neighborhood said they heard a sputtering engine, then heard what sounded like a plane crashing into trees and saw flames, Gordon said.

Check back for updates on this developing story.

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