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Police: 5 dead in N.M. airport plane crash

Five people are killed and two others  injured when a twin-engine plane crashes at a regional airport in south-central New Mexico, federal and local authorities say.
/ Source: The Associated Press

At least five people were killed and two others injured Thursday when a twin-engine airplane apparently overshot a runway while landing and crashed at a regional airport in south-central New Mexico, authorities said.

The survivors, who appeared to be teenagers, were airlifted to a hospital in El Paso, Texas, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Lynn Lunsford said.

John Frank, executive director of the Cessna Pilots Association, said the Cessna 310 has room for six people and includes a luggage compartment toward the rear. He said the only way seven passengers could fit into the aircraft would be if one or more were under the age of two — what pilots consider "an infant in arms."

According to federal records, the plane was built in 1980 and had turbocharged engines.

Lunsford said FAA officials were trying to determine the plane's route before the 10 a.m. MDT crash at Sierra Blanca Regional Airport, just outside of the mountain community of Ruidoso. No flight plan was filed for Thursday, he said, but the pilot received a weather briefing Wednesday for flight conditions between Cleburne, Texas, and Ruidoso.

"We do not know whether he completed the flight on Wednesday or waited until today to depart," Lunsford said. "There was no contact with air traffic controllers."

Lunsford said the Cessna 310 was registered to an owner in Granbury, Texas. The tail number shows the airplane belongs to Rod Aviation.

Cleburne city spokesman Charlie Hodges said the aircraft had stopped Thursday morning in the Texas community, about 25 miles south of Fort Worth.

The plane landed at 8:08 a.m. CDT in Cleburne, where two women and three children boarded. The aircraft departed two minutes later, but Hodges said he didn't know where it was going.

State police Lt. Eric Garcia confirmed five people were killed in the crash and two others were pulled from the wreckage. Their conditions were not immediately known.

"We're working with the originating airport right now to get a better idea of how many passengers were onboard. ... There's a substantial amount of damage so we can't clearly see who's inside," Garcia said. He declined to say where the flight originated.

The plane's passengers appear to be related, Lunsford said.

Authorities at the scene said it's too early to tell what may have caused the crash. Investigators with the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board were en route to the airport, about 130 miles south of Albuquerque.

The crash sparked a fire that burned about an acre of forest near the end of the runway. Firefighters were able to get the flames under control.