2 Dead after small plane crashes near Flagstaff

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FLAGSTAFF -- Two people were killed when a plane crashed in the northern part of the state Friday morning.

Friend speaks out about crash

Department of Public Safety Lt. James Warriner said a DPS commander who was on his way to work saw what appeared to be a small plane go down about 15 miles south of Flagstaff, 1/2 mile west of Interstate 17 near Willard Springs Road.

DPS Cmdr. Dean S. Nyhart said the engine was sputtering and the pilot had the plane's nose up, trying to gain altitude.

"I heard a tree snap, and an impact and then nothing so I knew he'd gone down," Nyhart said.

The commander immediately called it in and kicked off a ground search.

Heavy fog in the area made it impossible for the DPS helicopter to aid in the search. Other agencies quickly arrived to help.

While there was about 2 to 3 feet of snow on the ground, Blair said members of the ground search team reached the crash site. It took them about 90 minutes to get there.

A Coconino County sheriff's official said two bodies were removed from the plane crash.

The victims are two men from Flagstaff. The pilot has been identified as Frank Protiva, 47. The passenger was identified as Thomas Moody, 51.

They were headed to Yuma in a 1963 Cessna.