SULLIVAN, Mo. (AP) – A small plane carrying skydivers crashed shortly after takeoff Saturday, killing six people on board and injuring two others, authorities and witnesses said.

Early reports indicated the plane may have struck a telephone pole before hitting a tree, Franklin County Sheriff Gary Toelke said. It crashed about 10 feet from a house.

Four people were dead at the scene and two more died at St. John’s Mercy Hospital in Creve Couer, hospital spokesman David Downs said. One of the injured was in critical condition and one was in serious condition, Downs said.

No one on the ground was reported injured, Toelke said.

“People on the ground said they saw something happen to the engine, and the plane sort of entered into a nosedive,” Toelke said.

The victims had not been identified, but some were believed to have been from the St. Louis area.

The plane, a DeHavilland DHC-6 Twin Otter, had taken off from the Sullivan Regional Airport in eastern Missouri a short time before the crash, said patrol operator Ken Tretter.

The plane was making a skydiving flight for Quantum Leap Skydiving Inc., said Mark Lacy, safety and training adviser for the company, which is located in Sullivan. There were eight people aboard, he said.

“It’s a crash, and it’s bad,” Lacy said.

About a dozen people affiliated with Quantum Leap gathered at First Assembly of God church in Sullivan, where officials had set up a command post. A deacon brought out boxes of tissues as six people held hands in a prayer circle.

“Everybody will rally around each other,” said Judy Oglesby, wife of the church’s pastor. “Already people are contacting each other, offering to help any way they can.”

Toelke and Lacy did not know what caused the crash.

“It’s all speculation,” Lacy said. “There will have to be an FAA investigation on that.”

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board would investigate, FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory said.



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