The body of one child was recovered and “it is not hopeful” there are any survivors because of the nature of the crash and explosion, said Sheriff Paul Babeu.
Ten deputies spent the night on the mountain to keep it secure. They and dozens of volunteers were to start searching the area at first light, he said, adding that hikers and curiosity seekers should stay away. Video from news helicopters on Thursday morning showed the crash site in front of a blackened cliff.
Some immediate family members are out of the country, so the names of those involved can’t yet be released, Babeu said.
The twin-engine aircraft flew from Safford in southeastern Arizona to Mesa’s Falcon Field to pick up three children for the Thanksgiving holiday and was headed back to Safford, Babeu said.
KPNX-TV reported the father of the three children, who are ages 5 to 9, lives in Safford. Their mother lives in Mesa.
“Our hearts go out to her at this time,” Babeu said.