1 dead in small plane crash in Highlands Ranch

HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. - The pilot of a small, experimental plane died when it crashed in Highlands Ranch Saturday afternoon.

The crash was reported at about 3 p.m., according to FAA spokesman Allen Kenitzer

The plane was identified by Kenitzer as a Sonerai II LT Experimental.  He said it crashed under unknown circumstances. The plane was placed on the back of a tow truck and taken to a hangar at Centennial Airport around 7:45 p.m.

"(It's a) really, really small plane with very short wings. As small as a car," said flight instructor Sean Cavan.

Cavan said he was landing at Centennial around 2 p.m. when he saw an experimental plane readying to take off.

"The home built airplane that they're saying it was, that looked exactly like what it was," said Cavan.

The plane caught fire on impact and several good Samaritans tried, but were unable to extinguish the flames.  Kenitzer said only the pilot was on board.

"We got a report that there was a fireball when it landed," said Douglas County sheriff's deputy Chad Teller.

7NEWS reporter Marshall Zelinger talked with one man who ran to help pilot after the crash. He believes the pilot is a hero for missing a nearby shopping center.

"It's obviously populated over here, there is a residential area, businesses in the area, so we're fortunate that it was able to land over here in this area," said Teller.

Photos posted on Twitter by Larry Steller show emergency units in an open field near Town Center Drive and Lucent Boulevard, south of C-470 shortly after the crash.

The location is about 8 miles southwest of Centennial Airport.  The Sonerai II is a two-seater aircraft. Teller said it was not known if anyone else was on board.

The FAA and NTSB will investigate the crash.

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