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Tuesday January 16, 2001

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Small plane crashes in Great Salt Lake, killing nine

By The Associated Press

TOOELE, Utah - A twin-engine plane returning from a skydiving trip crashed into the Great Salt Lake, killing all nine people on board.

The plane was on a flight from Mesquite, Nev., when it went down in about five feet of water around 5:30 p.m. Sunday. Airport officials didn't know it was missing until a relative of a passenger called hours later.

Helicopters and boats were used to recover the bodies of the pilot and eight passengers early Monday, said Frank Scharmann, a spokesman for the Tooele County sheriff's office.

The 35-year-old Beech 65 plane was headed for Tooele County Airport, about five miles south of the lake. It crashed about a mile offshore.

Airport officials were not expecting the plane because the pilot had not registered a flight plan, so radar tape recordings had to be checked to determine the time of the crash.

The tapes indicated the plane was banking and that it may have spiraled into the lake, Scharmann said. There had been no distress signal.

Duck hunters along the lake's south shore found parachutes, clothing, the pilot's log book and other debris Monday morning.

''It smells like fuel out here. It's kind of an eerie feeling,'' said Tim Bryan, 31, one of the hunters.

Snow fell intermittently throughout the day Sunday, but there was no immediate indication if the weather contributed to the crash.

The passengers, members of a group called Skydive Salt Lake, had spent the weekend jumping during the day and camping in sleeping bags at the Mesquite Municipal Airport at night, airport manager Ray Wilson said. He said they took off for Tooele about two hours before the crash.

The dead were identified as the pilot, John T. Cashmen, 41; and passengers Mike C. Hurren, 51, a co-owner of Skydive Salt Lake; his wife, Gayle Hurren, 45; Lisa Ellise, 34; Nathan B. Hall, 29; Denise Stott, 26; Charles Wilson, 31; Merriah Hutson, 25; and Jay Johnson, 24.



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