PHOENIX – A small airplane slammed into a sheer cliff in the mile-high mountains east of Phoenix and exploded, killing the six people onboard, including the pilot and his three young children who were to spend the Thanksgiving weekend with him, authorities said.
The body of one child was recovered and dozens of sheriff’s search and rescue personnel worked Thursday to recover the remains of the other victims, said Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu.
A search and rescue team was in the rugged Superstition Mountains searching for three missing teenagers Wednesday evening and saw the explosion as the twin-engine plane hit the cliff, Babeu said. The searchers found the teens, then went up the mountain to try to reach the crash site.
Ten deputies who spent the night on the mountain were relieved by 10 more early Thursday. They and dozens of volunteers began searching the crash site at first light. Video from news helicopters Thursday morning showed the wreckage strewn at the bottom of a blackened cliff.
The dead included pilot Shawn Perry, 39, his two sons and his daughter, Babeu said. Morgan Perry, 9, Logan Perry, 8, and Luke Perry, 6, lived with their mother in the community of Gold Canyon in Pinal County. Their father lived in Safford in southeastern Arizona and owned a small aviation business there.
He had flown to the Phoenix suburb of Mesa with another pilot who co-owned the company and a company mechanic to pick up the children for Thanksgiving. The plane was headed back to Safford when it crashed.