All three people aboard a single-engine plane were killed Friday when it crashed after colliding with a pickup truck that was crossing a runway at the Knox County Regional Airport in Owls Head, the manager of the airport said.

Jeff Northgraves said the plane apparently was taking off when it hit the pickup. He said it continued to climb briefly, veered to the west, crashed into woods about 200 feet off the runway and burst into flames.

The plane was so badly burned that officials still had not determined its tail number Friday night, more than four hours after the crash.

Northgraves said the pickup truck’s driver wasn’t hurt.

He said Federal Aviation Administration officials asked him not to release the names of the victims or the truck’s driver. He said the FAA had an investigator at the airport and the National Transportation Safety Board was sending an investigator, who was expected to arrive Saturday.

Northgraves said the plane was about three-quarters of the way down the 5,000-foot runway when the collision occurred.

Drivers are allowed to cross runways at the airport, he said, as long as they have training from airport officials and a vehicle that’s equipped with a radio. The driver of the pickup is a local pilot who has been trained and had a radio in the truck, Northgraves said.

Knox County Regional Airport does not have a control tower or anyone monitoring aircraft or vehicle traffic, he said.

Although the tail number of the Cessna 172 hasn’t been determined, Northgraves said, officials don’t believe the plane was locally based.

The crash occurred about 4:45 p.m., after sunset, but Northgraves said he didn’t know if darkness was a factor.

The sky was clear and winds were light, according to the National Weather Service.

John Newcomb, president of Down East Air, who went to the scene to try to help, told The Associated Press that another pilot saw the impact, and emergency workers were quickly summoned.

With flames shooting 10 to 20 feet in the air, the first people at the scene tried unsuccessfully to pull one of the occupants from the wreckage, which sent smoke billowing into the sky, Newcomb said.

Heat from the flames popped the airplane’s tires and kept rescuers away from the plane, he said.

The AP reported that the airport was the site of the deadliest commercial plane crash in Maine history, in 1979.

More than a dozen passengers and two pilots were killed when a de Havilland Twin Otter turboprop crashed short of the runway in foggy weather. There was only one survivor, a 16-year-old boy.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

[email protected]

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