MARION, Mont. (AP) _ A plane crash killed five members of a group of skydivers Saturday in northwestern Montana, the Flathead County sheriff said.
The crash happened late Saturday morning in a field about 30 miles southwest of Kalispell, in an area known as Lost Prairie, Sheriff Mike Meehan said. The Federal Aviation Administration in Seattle said the plane went down shortly after takeoff, then burned.
The pilot of the Cessna 182 operated by Skydive Lost Prairie was carrying two skydiving instructors and two trainees to jumps, said Michael Morrill, a manager of the company.
Morrill said the plane took off in clear weather.
Names of those killed were not released immediately. All were from Montana, Morrill said.
Skydiving is a relatively small sport in the state, with perhaps 60 or 70 people who are experienced jumpers, said Tina Sanders of Skydive Montana, another business that offers jumps. She said the aficionados are a close-knit group and another skydiver called her about 15 minutes after the crash happened.
Much of the recreational skydiving in Montana involves tandem skydiving in which novices are attached to experienced jumpers, who control the parachute that carries both people to the ground, Sanders said.