A single-engine plane crashed Saturday afternoon into the side of Mount Charleston, killing the four people on board and sparking a wildfire that forced the evacuation of some homes in the mountain community.
Firefighters late Saturday night continued to battle the blaze, which had consumed 12 acres near homes in Kyle Canyon.
The plane, a Piper Cherokee, had four passengers when it took off from the North Las Vegas Airport bound for the Northern California town of Byron, according to a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman.
At 2:45 p.m., the aircraft swooped through Kyle Canyon at a low altitude, witnesses said, and clipped several power lines along Echo Road.
At 2:55 p.m., emergency calls came pouring in to authorities indicating that the plane had crashed, just a few hundred feet from homes, according to Clark County Fire Department spokesman Scott Allison.
"It was taking out trees and breaking up into pieces on the way down," Allison said.
Authorities found no survivors.
FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said officials did not know why the plane went down.
Before it crashed, the plane was flying through uncontrolled airspace — where there’s no requirement to obtain permission to fly — and was not communicating with air traffic control, Gregor said.
Eyewitness Russell Hayden was at his father’s house in the Kyle Canyon neighborhood along Echo Road when he saw the plane shoot by the window about 20 feet from his house.
"I’ve heard a lot of airplane engines," Hayden said. The pilot "was revving the heck out of that engine, trying to gain altitude, I think."
Hayden said he ran outside and found power lines and power poles had been knocked down.
When he got to the crash site, about 200 feet from Echo Road, he saw three bodies that were badly burned, he said.
Fire from the wreckage spread to surrounding trees, according to Hayden’s sister, Kristina Hayden.
"They lit up like candles, quite literally," she said.
The blaze, which was threatening 38 structures, was 20 percent contained by 9 p.m. Saturday, according to the federal Bureau of Land Management.
Firefighters were expected to continue battling the blaze until this morning, Allison said.
The fire prompted the evacuation of homes in the Echo subdivision and the Mount Charleston Lodge.
Witnesses described a plane that was flying abnormally low and losing altitude, even as it approached homes on Mount Charleston.
Richard Green, 56, was staying at one of the campgrounds along Kyle Canyon Road when he saw the plane fly over.
"I looked up and thought, ‘That plane just looks too low,’" Green said. "It just didn’t seem like a normal flight path."
An eyewitness in the Rainbow subdivision, 11/4 miles from the crash site, saw the plane circle overheard, then turn up the canyon.
Witnesses said the plane was flying about 1,000 feet over the Rainbow subdivision.
By the time it passed over the Old Town subdivision, one mile away, it was less than 100 feet off the ground.
The plane was so low, Old Town cabin owner Ilean Eyler said she looked up and saw two people in the plane.
Eyewitness Deanna Rabice, a two-year resident of the Echo subdivision, looked out her living room window and saw the plane nearly clip the power line that is outside her house.
It was approximately 20 feet off the ground and crashed less than 100 yards away.
"I saw the bottom of the whole airplane just miss my power line."
Chicago native Marcus Padgett, 49, who was dining with a friend at the Mount Charleston Lodge, saw the plane fly past.
"I was thinking, ‘Man, that thing is low,’" he said.
After it crashed, guests on the patio watched the flames. About 10 minutes later, the staff at the restaurant told everyone to leave, Padgett said.
Firefighters and officials from the U.S. Division of Forestry, Nevada Division of Forestry, BLM, Clark County and city of Las Vegas fire departments, Metropolitan Police Department and Nevada Highway Patrol all responded to the crash.
Authorities blocked Kyle Canyon Road past the turnoff to Lee Canyon Road as emergency vehicles raced down the road and helicopters and a plane dumped water and fire retardant on the fire.
Contact reporter Lawrence Mower at email@example.com or 702-383-0440. Contact columnist John L. Smith at Smith@reviewjournal.com or (702) 383-0295.