updated 12/28/2004 6:06:08 PM ET 2004-12-28T23:06:08

A small plane crashed Tuesday near the airport in this northern Michigan town, killing all five people on board, authorities said.

The victims in the twin-engine Piper were the pilot, his wife and three children, Deputy Sheriff Jay Kangas said. The weather was clear at the time of the crash, Kangas said.

“The pilot reported an engine problem followed by a landing gear problem, and was circling the airport at the time of the crash,” said Ted Lopatkiewicz, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board.

Mike Ruotsala said he heard the crash and looked out the window of his parents’ home. The plane was nose down amid trees between the house and a nearby pond, he said.

Ironwood Township is on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula near the Wisconsin state line.

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