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Wed, Oct. 23

5 die in plane crash off Perkinsville Road

Special to the Review

Five people died this past Wednesday afternoon when a twin-engine plane crashed on a flight to take pictures of an old Soviet military jet 10 miles northeast of Chino Valley off Perkinsville Road.

The pilot, William Friedman, and passengers, Don Morris, Warren Parkes, Andrew Bouquet and Josh T. Vaughn after their twin-engine turbo-prop Piper Cheyenne and a MiG-21 with only a pilot on board took off from the Prescott Airport at 1:30 p.m., said Ian Gregor, a spokesman with the Federal Aviation Administration.

"The purpose of their flight was for the people in the Cheyenne to photograph the MiG in flight," he said. "When they were roughly 16 miles northeast of Prescott, the MiG pilot had thought that he had a possible problem with his landing gear door."

Gregor said the MiG passed on this information to the Cheyenne pilot and at the point, the Cheyenne pilot flipped underneath the MiG to take a look.

"The MiG pilot reported that that was the last time he saw or heard from the Cheyenne pilot," Gregor said.

He told air traffic control personnel that he may have had a midair collision at about 8,900 feet above the ground.

The MiG flew back and landed safely at the Prescott Airport. Gregor said airport officials checked the MiG that Soviets built in 1974 and found no apparent signs of damage.

"These planes were not under air traffic control when they crashed," he said.

When the Cheyenne left the airport, an air traffic controller spotted what appeared to be a vapor coming out of the plane's right engine.

He passed on that information to the Cheyenne pilot, Gregor said.

"The pilot decided to continue his flight anyway," he said. "Whether that had anything to do with the crash, we just don't know."

The Yavapai County Medical Examiners office will confirm the identities of the victims, according to the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office.

Gregor said investigators from the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are on the way to the crash site, which took local firefighters an hour to find. The Cheyenne, built in 1981, crashed one mile south and two miles west of Perkinsville Ranch, according to Chino Valley Fire District spokesman Jack Miller, who described the location as inaccessible.

District Chief John Ginn said the black smoke was his crew's only guide since it had no exact information on the crash location.

At one point, a private helicopter got overhead and led one of the firefighters in to the crash scene. Ginn said all that was left of the plane was two engines and the tail.

The remoteness of the crash scene delayed rescue efforts.

Donald Olfers, a paramedic with the Arizona Department of Public Safety ranger unit, said that he and pilot Brad Heppner arrived in their Ranger Unit helicopter at 3:06 p.m., about a 20-minute flight from Flagstaff.

"As we were coming across the rock quarries just south of Williams, we saw the smoke" from the crash scene, Olfers said.

Heppner said, "We just walked around the scene. There were no survivors."

After lengthy radio contact among agencies, rescue crews from the Prescott National Forest, Chino Valley Fire District and Yavapai County Sheriff's Office made the 5.5-mile drive on a U.S. Forest Service Road - a bumpy Jeep trail - from Perkinsville Road. They arrived at the wreck scene at about 4 p.m.

The charred remains of the plane and nearby brush smoldered at the crash scene.

Sgt. David Rhodes of the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office secured the scene with yellow tape, and Ginn, the Chino Valley Fire Chief, placed pink tape when they ran out of yellow tape.

Ginn also met with Heppner, Olfers and Rhodes at the taped-off area.

This is the second fatal plane crash in six weeks in the Prescott area. On Sept. 2, two adults and a teen-ager died when a fixed wing multiengine Cessna 337 crashed into power lines northwest of Pioneer Parkway and Willow Creek.

NTSB officials still are investigating the cause of that crash.

Reporter Ken Hedler contributed to this story.

Contact the reporter at mburic@precottaz.com

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