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Plane that crashed in Arizona, killing four, registered to Wesley Chapel man

A small plane that crashed into an empty Arizona school on its way to the Grand Canyon, killing all four aboard, was registered to a Wesley Chapel man, authorities said Sunday.

The single-engine Piper aircraft that crashed Friday was registered to Jeffrey J. Ulrich of Winged Elm Drive in Pasco County, according to Federal Aviation Administration records.

Officials would not say whether Ulrich or any members of his family were aboard the plane, but a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board confirmed the plane's registration.

Investigators are working to determine what caused the plane to nose-dive into the main building at Round Valley High School about 2 p.m. Friday in the small town of Eagar, which is about 200 miles east of Phoenix.

The plane circled the area two or three times before it suddenly crashed and exploded.

There were no reports of injuries on the ground.

The plane had just taken off from the nearby Springerville Airport when the crash happened.

Earlier in the day, the plane had stopped in Wichita Falls, Texas, said NTSB investigator Joshua Cawthra. He was unsure of its stops before that.

By Saturday, four bodies had been removed from the wreckage, said Richard Guinn, a sergeant with the Apache County Sheriff's Office. The remains were sent to the county medical examiner's office.

On Sunday afternoon, federal investigators had removed the plane's wreckage and transported it to a site in Phoenix where it will be reconstructed so investigators can determine the cause of the crash, Guinn said.

The NTSB hoped to conclude its onsite investigation by Sunday afternoon and will post a preliminary report on the crash on its website by the end of the week, Guinn said.

The NTSB has determined that the plane was a Piper single-engine aircraft with six seats, Guinn said.

Investigators are examining flight plans and weather conditions at the time of the crash and will look at the plane's control systems.

"They're working on recovering all of the wreckage, documenting where all the pieces are and the debris path," he said.

Hours after the crash on Friday, flames were still erupting above the school building. Fire crews from nearly a dozen small towns in the region raced to battle the flames. Officials evacuated homes in neighborhoods east and north of the school.

Classes at the school are out for the summer, and Guinn said no teachers or staff were on the grounds because they work a four-day week during the break.

The school serves about 500 students in Eagar and Springerville.

The Associated Press, Times researcher Shirl Kennedy and staff writer Dominick Tao contributed to this report. Tom Marshall can be reached at tmarshall@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3400.

Plane that crashed in Arizona, killing four, registered to Wesley Chapel man 06/13/10 [Last modified: Sunday, June 13, 2010 10:39pm]
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