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Page last updated at 03:45 GMT, Monday, 23 March 2009

'Children die' in US plane crash

Scene of the crash in Butte, Montana
The plane crashed close to the town airport

A plane has crashed in the northern US state of Montana, killing at least 16 people on board, officials say.

The light aircraft went down in a cemetery as it approached the airport in the town of Butte.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said children were among the victims. There were no survivors.

The pilot was flying from Oroville, California, when he diverted to Butte, the FAA said. He tried to land but crashed 500ft (150m) from the airport.

Emergency services attend the crash site

At a news conference, FAA officials said the plane crashed in a cemetery close to the airport in cloudy weather conditions, John Emeigh, a reporter for The Montana Standard newspaper, told the BBC.

There were no survivors on board the plane, the FAA said. No-one on the ground was injured.

The cause of the crash was not immediately known.

'Nosedive'

Reports suggest the pilot had filed a flight plan showing a destination of Bozeman, a ski destination about 85 miles (136km) southeast of Butte.

But the pilot cancelled his flight plan at some point and diverted for Butte, FAA spokesman Mike Fergus said.

map

"We think that it was probably a ski trip for the kids," Mr Fergus told the Associated Press news agency.

A local reporter at the crash site told the BBC the area was sealed off, and officials were not letting anyone near it.

"I did speak to one eyewitness who said he saw the plane approaching from the west and nosedive into the Holy Cross cemetery just short of the airport here in Butte," said Pat Ryan, also from The Montana Standard.

"I was on the scene speaking to eyewitnesses who basically described the plane coming in trying to make it to the runway and obviously not getting there."

He said witnesses told him there had then been an explosion and the plane had caught fire.

Les Dorr, another FAA spokesman, told the BBC that the plane crashed at approximately 1527 local time (2127 GMT).

He said the plane was a Pilatus PC-12 Swiss-made turboprop aircraft.



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