Wed, Feb. 26

Two dead in Sedona plane crash

Two people are dead and a third man badly burned in the Thursday afternoon crash of a small plane into Schnebly Hill above Sedona.

The pilot, who survived, told DPS rescue crews that he lost power before the plane crashed into a rugged heavily-treed terrain six miles west of Interstate 17 and about a half-mile off Schnebly Hill Road.

The pilot, Rockney Herring, 51, of Orange, Texas, was able to free himself from the wreckage. Michael Johnson, 66, of Phoenix and Tommy Johnson, 44, of Kountze, Texas, both died.

The plane caught fire in the crash and a heavy dark black plume of smoke could be seen from the Sedona Fire Station in Sedona.

The blaze ignited grass and snags around the crash site, and responding fire fighters were able to contain it.

A DPS rescue helicopter transported the injured man to the Flagstaff Medical Center for treatment for severe burns.

Coconino Sheriff's spokesman Gerry Blair said several people called 911 and reported seeing heavy smoke pouring off the mountain top east of Sedona. A New York firefighter who was riding an ATV in the area, spotted the smoke and assisted and remained with the injured pilot until Sedona Fire and Pinewood Fire crews arrived just before 5 p.m.

Another reporting party was a driver with Pink Jeep Tours. Several drivers and jeeps from that company assisted in locating the crash site and transporting investigators and firefighters to the scene during the evening.

Because of the rapidly approaching darkness, members of the Coconino Search and Rescue stayed with the wreckage overnight until crews could return to the crash site in the morning light.

All of the crash victims are family members, who reportedly took off in the 1967 single-engine Piper from an airstrip in Buckeye. Family members report receiving a phone call from the Sedona Airport about 4:15 p.m. saying the group was preparing to return to the Phoenix area.

The pilot is listed as the contact for Wings of Promise, a charitable air ambulance service based in Texas.

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