ST. GEORGE — Authorities have officiallly released the names of four men who died early Saturday morning in the crash of a single-engine Cessna near the St. George Municipal Airport.
The victims are: Christopher Jordan Chapman, 20, and Colby Chester Hafen, 28, both of Santa Clara; and Tanner James Holt, 23 of Washington City and Alexander James Metzger, 22, of St. George.
Assistant City Manager Marc Mortensen said the Cessna 172 was discovered at 6 a.m. about 300 feet south of the airport's runway and is believed to have crashed around 1:30 a.m. There were no eyewitnesses to the crash and no airport personnel present at the time.
"The airport is not staffed at that time of night," Mortensen said. "We operate through an automated system as far as clearing the air space, so there is no one that approves takeoffs or approaches."
But it did not appear that reaching the aircraft immediately after it crashed would have made a difference to the four people on board.
"Even if we could have discovered this within minutes, it's apparent that there were no survivors and everyone died on impact," Mortsensen said. "Whether you discover it two minutes later or four or five hours later, I think it's insignificant in this case."
The crash, the first at the airport which opened about a year and a half ago, will be investigated by Federal Aviation Administration officials as well as the National Transportation Safety Board. Federal investigators were expected to be on site late Saturday to determine what caused the crash.
"We are not certain what phase of flight the aircraft was in when it crashed," said Federal Aviation Administration communications manager Ian Gregor.
The NTSB will lead the investigation and the NTSB investigator usually posts a basic preliminary report on the agency’s website, www.ntsb.gov, within a week or two of an accident. However, it typically takes NTSB months to come up with a probable cause for accidents, Gregor said.
Mortsensen said that because crash occurred so far from the runway, it did not interrupt airport operations Saturday and all private and commercial flights proceeded as scheduled.
"This is extremely unfortunate to have this occur," he said. "You never want this type of event to occur near or around your airport or to anyone who frequents your airport, so I would imagine that those who possibly know the pilot or the owner of the aircraft would be pretty devastated. Our hearts go out to family members and anyone who knew those who were involved."
Contributing: Amy Joi O'Donoghue