Image: Plane wreckage
Craig Moore  /  Daily Inter Lake
Flathead County Sheriff's deputies stand beside the wreckage of a plane that crashed at Lost Praire Skydive Center on Saturday outside Marion, Mont.
updated 5/12/2007 10:44:10 PM ET 2007-05-13T02:44:10

A plane crash killed five members of a group of skydivers Saturday in northwestern Montana, the Flathead County sheriff said.

The crash happened late Saturday morning in a field about 30 miles southwest of Kalispell, in an area known as Lost Prairie, Sheriff Mike Meehan said. The Federal Aviation Administration in Seattle said the plane went down shortly after takeoff, then burned.

The pilot of the Cessna 182 operated by Skydive Lost Prairie was carrying two skydiving instructors and two trainees to jumps, said Michael Morrill, a manager of the company. He said the plane took off in good weather.

Names of those killed were not released immediately. All were from Montana, Morrill said.

He said the pilot began working for Sky Dive Lost Prairie about 10 days ago and was experienced, with more than 500 hours of flying time. He had a commercial rating, Morrill said.

The skydivers were heading off to tandem jumps in which trainees are attached to instructors, who control the parachute that carries both people to the ground, Morrill said. The parachutists were to fly for about 30 minutes, free fall for 30 seconds or so and then have a 5-minute “canopy ride” to the ground, Morrill said.

Skydiving is a relatively small sport in the state, with perhaps 60 or 70 people who are experienced jumpers, said Tina Sanders of Skydive Montana, another business that offers jumps. She said the aficionados are a close-knit group and another skydiver called her about 15 minutes after the crash happened.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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