A plane carrying five German tourists and the pilot lost power shortly after takeoff at the Gouldings Airport in Monument Valley and crashed three miles west of the runway, injuring all six occupants.
Two passengers were flown to Flagstaff Medical Center in Flagstaff, Ariz., and were in serious condition. The others, including pilot Craig Robinson, 27, Page, Ariz., were taken to the Kayenta Clinic in Kayenta, Ariz, where they were treated for minor injuries and released, a clinic spokesman said Wednesday.There were four men and two women on the plane, but only the pilot's name has been released by the San Juan County Sheriff's Office. None of the passengers spoke much English, and therefore much of their information he had about them, including their names was sketchy, Sheriff Mike Lacy said.
The plane crashed about three miles from the Gouldings Airport, said Gouldings Lodge operations manager Ronnie Biard. The lodge sits about 200 yards from the airstrip.
The airplane lost power and hit nose down on a soft sandy plateau inside the Navajo Indian Reservation, tipping over on its top, Lacy said. Then it tipped over on its top. It narrowly missed a residence.
"It was probably the soft sand out there that kept them from getting killed," Lacy said.
The tourists had just completed a bus tour of Monument Valley and at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday hopped aboard the single-engine Scenic Air Cessna 207 for an air tour of the valley and Lake Powell.
An employee with Scenic Airlines declined to comment on the crash Wednesday or say what route the plane had been flying. Scenic Airlines, which operates out of Page, has been flying scenic tours of the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Bryce Canyon and Lake Powell since 1926, according to information from the company's website. The company specializes in tours for foreign tourists, offering tours in 16 different languages.
Biard didn't see the plane take off but heard the crash over a two-way radio. Plumes of sand and dust from the crash site could be seen from the lodge, he said.
After hearing about the crash, Biard told a fellow Gouldings staffer to call for help and he jumped in his car and drove one mile west to an old firehouse, where a crew of instructors from the State Fire and Rescue Academy in Provo were working.
Monument Valley hasn't had a fire department for two years, Biard said, but by chance, efforts to recruit and train firefighters are underway, so a crew was available to get to Tuesday's crash site within minutes.
"We were lucky," said Rick Bailey, San Juan County's emergency response coordinator. "Otherwise, the next closest response would be Kayenta, 45 miles to the south or Mexican Hat, which is about 35 miles."
Officials have yet to determine a cause for the crash, Lacy said. Federal Aviation Authority officials were expected to arrive Wednesday to begin an investigation, he said.