Image: Plane Into School
Dean Martin Campaign via AP
In this picture provided by the campaign of Republican gubernatorial candidate Dean Martin, smoke rises into the air after two died when a small plane crashed into Round Valley High School in Eager, Ariz., Friday.
NBC, msnbc.com and news services
updated 6/11/2010 10:20:50 PM ET 2010-06-12T02:20:50

A small plane nosdived into a high school in a small eastern Arizona town Friday afternoon and exploded, killing both people aboard.

Authorities said there were no reports of injuries on the ground, with classes out for the summer.

The Cessna circled the area two or three times before it suddenly slammed into the main building at Round Valley High School in Eager at about 2 p.m., Apache County sheriff's Sgt. Richard Guinn said.

Officials do not know who was flying the plane, but Guinn said there was no sign it was anything but a normal pleasure flight.

Two hours later, flames were still erupting 20 to 30 feet above the roof of the two-story school.

The first person on the scene was James Nelson Jr., an Eagar councilman. "I was driving down Main Street and saw a small plane that was too low and wobbling," he told the White Mountain Independent. "It went down near the high school so I pulled in and saw it had crashed into the roof. There were pieces of the plane scattered over the roof and in the parking lot."

Another witness, Pete Brown, was also driving down Main Street and saw the plane. "It was way too low and wavering back and forth. I heard the explosion and saw the fireball."

Nelson said that three other people helped him try to get into the school building, but the doors were locked. As they were leaving, the plane exploded.

Fire crews from nearly a dozen small towns in the region raced to battle the flames. Officials evacuated homes in neighborhoods east and north of the school.

The school serves about 500 students in Eager and nearby Springerville and is about 200 miles east of Phoenix. The blaze was contained to the main school building.

State Treasurer Dean Martin, who was in Eager, said he and others had left their vehicles at the school before heading out on a forest tour. They drove off just minutes before the plane hit and looked in the rearview mirror to see smoke rising into the sky.

"Initially we thought someone tossed a cigarette butt," said Martin, a state gubernatorial candidate. "But shortly after, there was this massive fireball."


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