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Three killed in Sheldon plane crash

(Justine Wettschreck/Daily Globe)

The O'Brien County Sheriff's Office is not yet releasing the names of three adult males killed in a single engine plane crash around 11 a.m. Tuesday.

The names of the victims were withheld pending notification of family members.

According to O'Brien County Chief Deputy Allen Schuknecht, his office was notified at 11:01 a.m. that a witness discovered the wreckage after seeing what he thought was an attempt to land and checking out the landing area. He immediately called the sheriff's office.

During a press conference at the Law Enforcement Center in Primghar, Iowa, Schuknecht said it appeared as though the small plane had attempted to land on the gravel road or in a nearby field. The pilot and two passengers were killed on impact, Schuknecht believes. There was no fire or explosion, and all three bodies remained in the cabin of the plane.

They were removed and brought to Sheldon.

The crash site was about five miles from the Sheldon airport, but no flight plan was filed, so the plane's destination is unclear.

"We're not sure where they were flying from or flying to," said a spokesperson for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The plane, a single-engine Piper 28 built in 1968, is owned by Jerome Goodger of Milton, Wis., who was not on the plane. A person answering the phone Tuesday at the number listed for Goodger said he was home but unavailable.

Deputies found the plane partially on its top at the edge of the gravel road. It had suffered major structural damage but appeared largely intact.

"It just flew into an embankment," Schuknecht said. "It looked like it might have been able to land if it hadn't hit that road."

While the weather was cloudy, the skies were darkened and gusts of wind were present, Schuknecht doesn't believe those factors contributed to the crash.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the plane still sat on the embankment with its tail in the air.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the FAA will be in charge of the investigation to determine what caused the plane to go down. FAA investigators were en route to the scene to collect evidence Tuesday afternoon. The evidence will be turned over to the NTSB.

The Sanborn Fire and Rescue, Sheldon Ambulance and Iowa Highway Patrol assisted the O'Brien County Sheriff's Office at the scene.