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Small Plane Crashes into Colorado Cliff, Killing 3

<p>"It’s just a terrible, terrible tragedy,” San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters said.</p>

Three people aboard a small private aircraft died Sunday after a crash into a cliff near the Telluride Regional Airport in Colorado, officials said.

The single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza left the Telluride airport at 11:20 a.m. Sunday en route to the southwestern city of Cortez, Colo., amid light snow with one-mile visibility and calm winds, according to a statement from San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters.

Air traffic control at both the Telluride and Denver airports lost contact with the aircraft, prompting a search coordinated by the sheriff's office at 12:40 p.m., the statement said.

Sheriff's deputies found the wreckage of the aircraft in a cliff band about a mile from the runway at 5:17 p.m., according to the statement. Units were immediately dispatched to the scene, where deputies confirmed there were no survivors.

“This is certainly not the outcome we were hoping for, it’s just a terrible, terrible tragedy,” Masters said.

The cause of the crash is not yet known, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said in an email to NBC News. He said the NTSB and the FAA will investigate the crash, Gregor said.

Masters said recovery efforts will begin Monday — and that the county coroner's office was expected to release the identities of the crash victims after family members are notified.

— Daniel Arkin