Authorities have identified the bodies of four people who died in a small plane crash north of Billings over weekend.
The single-engine Cessna 182 crashed Saturday evening between Billings and Roundup on Dunn Mountain. The plane was found the next day and four bodies were recovered.
Yellowstone County Sheriff Mike Linder says the National Transportation Safety Board started investigating Sunday.
"I think it’s just an unfortunate incident, and unfortunately some lives were claimed but probably from what I’m seeing it’s just a tragic accident," Linder said.
Pilot David Healow, 69, and passengers Rusty Jungels, 36, Mikel Peterson, 35, and Raymond Rumbold, 32, died in the crash. All four were from Billings.
Initial investigations by the NTSB and the Federal Aviation Administration say it’s believed the airplane hit a guy-wire on a 180-foot antenna tower and possibly the tower itself and went down the side of the mountain.
"We don’t know why the plane was at the level that it was at and that’s something the FAA or NTSB will have to determine the circumstances there," Linder said.
The antenna tower holds public safety radio antennas for repeater systems for Yellowstone County and some of Musselshell County. The crash did not affect any public safety systems for Yellowstone County. Musselshell County had one radio go down, which was repaired quickly.
Stan Morris is the Assistant Director of Flight Operations for Rocky Mountain College in Billings. He says many different factors could cause a plane to crash, including weather and mechanical issues.
"Flying airplanes is actually very safe, a very reliable form of transportation," Morris said.
Morris adds until the NTSB’s investigation is complete it’s not possible to know which factors played a role in the crash.
NTSB’s preliminary report is expected in seven to 10 days after the crash. However, preliminary reports don’t include a determination of cause or analysis.
According to the NTSB there were 347 civil aviation deaths nationwide in 2017, the most recent year with finalized data.