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10 Killed in Plane Crash After Tour of Grand Canyon : Disaster: The Adventure Airlines flight back to Las Vegas went down south of the Nevada-Arizona border.

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

A small plane returning from a sightseeing flight to the Grand Canyon crashed in a remote area near the Arizona-Nevada border on Friday, killing the pilot and nine passengers, authorities said.

A spokeswoman for the Mohave County sheriff’s office in Kingman, Ariz., said the twin-engine Cessna 402 from Adventure Airlines in Las Vegas crashed near an airstrip on the Hualapai Indian Reservation on the south shore of Lake Mead, 15 miles east of the small community of Meadview, Ariz.

“The wings and fuselage were pretty much intact and the pilot and passengers were still strapped in their seats,” said sheriff’s Deputy Ron Panner, who was among the first people to arrive at the crash site. “It looked like they all died on impact.”

Officials in Las Vegas, where the flight originated, said the crash occurred about 2:30 p.m., shortly after the plane took off from Grand Canyon West Airport in Meadview.

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Arizona Department of Public Safety air rescue paramedic Larry Carver said the fuselage and wings of the plane were intact when he reached the scene, an indication that one of its engines may have stalled after taking off.

“It appears one of the engines quit on him and he was just taking off from the airport, so he still did not have a lot of forward airspeed,” Carver said. “He was probably still in a climb and was probably attempting to turn to head back to Las Vegas at that time when he lost the engine and was unable to get it back to the airport.”

A spokesman for the airline confirmed that there were no survivors but could offer no information about who was on the plane.

Detective Greg Jensen of the sheriff’s office said Friday night that investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration had arrived at the crash site.

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“We’re now in the process of recovering the bodies and returning them to Kingman, after which we hope to notify the families of the victims,” he said.

Adventure Airlines flies tours of the Grand Canyon from McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, airport spokeswoman Kay Scherer said. Adventure is a tenant of Scenic Airlines, a larger tour operator, she said.

The crash Friday was the eighth in six years of a Grand Canyon tour plane. Fifty-nine people have died in the crashes since 1986.

Officials estimate that 750,000 tourists take 50,000 sightseeing flights over the park yearly.

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The flights, which began more than 65 years ago, have long been controversial. Environmental groups, hikers and rafters have pressed without success for a complete flight ban over the canyon, contending that the planes are too noisy and disrupt the canyon’s tranquillity.

However, noise complaints did lead to a tragic 1986 decision to shift some sightseeing routes.

Within months, a helicopter carrying five people collided with a small plane carrying 20 people where the routes intersected under the altered flight plans. All on both aircraft were killed in the accident.

That crash led to passage of a 1987 law prohibiting aircraft from flying below the canyon rim and restricting planes to certain air route corridors.

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In September, 1989, a twin-engine sightseeing plane crashed on approach to Grand Canyon Airport, killing 10 people and injuring 11 others.

In October, 1989, a single-engine sightseeing plane crash-landed in the canyon, injuring all three aboard.

In April, 1990, a sightseeing plane that had just completed a tour crashed a half-mile from the airport, injuring all seven aboard.

In May, 1991, another sightseeing plane crashed near the canyon minutes after taking off, killing seven.

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In December, 1991, four tourists and their pilot died when their plane crashed into mountains near Hoover Dam.

In January, two tourists were killed and three people on the plane were injured in a post-tour crash at an airstrip in the Lake Mead National Recreation area.

In the five years before 1986, there were 10 crashes within Grand Canyon National Park in which 10 people were killed.

Pat Ckoch, who works at a Meadview grocery store that doubles as a post office, said that the town’s only ambulance crew was dispatched to the Friday crash scene shortly after 2:30 p.m.

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Leann Moore of Meadview, who learned about the crash after seeing an ambulance roar up the town’s main street, said she once thought she would like to take one of the sightseeing tours, but no more.

“There’ve just been too many crashes. You couldn’t pay me to get on one of those planes.”


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