PINE RIVER - Two people are dead after a small passenger plane crashed in a field south of the Pine River Regional Airport Friday night, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reports.

Cass County Sheriff Tom Burch said their identities are being withheld pending notification of family and he expects to release more information Sunday.

According to the NTSB, the crash of the Piper J4A aircraft was reported at 6:35 p.m. Friday. Several witnesses reported the plane took off from the airport on a course headed south and appeared to be “low and slow” before crashing one-quarter mile away. Burch reported fuel was leaking from the aircraft after impact, but did not ignite. The plane reportedly was engaging in a local flight, with departure and landing planned in Pine River.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) registry, the plane involved is registered to John M. Witt of Pine River. It is a fixed wing single-engine airplane manufactured in 1940.

Investigators from the FAA and NTSB were on scene Saturday documenting the wreckage. Once the on-scene investigation is complete, the NTSB will remove the wreckage to a facility in Minneapolis for further investigation.

An FAA official reported its investigation will roll into the NTSB investigation, and it will be close to a year before it is complete.

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