Firefighters were called to an area in the Santa Ana Mountains off Ortega Highway at 9:22 a.m. and found a Piper PA28 Cherokee airplane crashed into a cliff, Riverside County fire officials said.
Crews took to the air and ground to attack the flames and extinguished the fire in about an hour. Riverside County Fire Department confirmed three fatalities aboard the plan but are not releasing identities, or the plane's tail number, until family is notified.
About a tenth of an acre burned in the rugged mountainous area, officials said. The crash happened about 35 miles east of Santa Ana, in the 32000 block of Ortega Highway.