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Local man describes watching the plane crash near Paradise that killed two people

Published On: Dec 24 2013 02:04:15 AM CST   Updated On: Aug 14 2013 09:34:02 AM CDT
PARADISE, Calif. -

Two people were killed in Butte County on Tuesday after a plane crashed, starting a brush fire. One Paradise man said he saw the whole thing happen.

Bob Smalley said he witnessed the crash on his way home from Live Oak. At the time, he said he could not believe what he was seeing.

“I looked up and it just banked and it stop in mid-air and spiraled all the way down,” said Smalley.

Smalley saw the twin seat, single-engine plane, plunge from the sky Tuesday morning at around 11:30.

“It banked and then almost like "spoof” but I did see it spin -- that's why I thought [it was a crop duster]. When you see a crop duster they'll come up and turn.  It kind of looked like it did that but then it did the spin,” said Smalley.

He said he started to see the plane flying very low on Highway 99 right before he turned onto Neal Road.

“You know it was pretty low.  Maybe that's why I was looking at it,” said Smalley.

The plane crashed at the bottom of a canyon next to Neal Road just outside of Paradise, sparking a fire that eventually grew to around 21 acres.

“It’s very steep to get access to the bottom of the fire down in the bottom of the canyon and so it'll depend on the firefighter's ability to make access to it but they are working pretty hard,” said CAL FIRE Deputy Matt Damon.  “We don't have any information and the plane is pretty well destroyed.  We don't have any information on the type of aircraft or the occupant.”

Bob Smalley said watching the plane crash will be something that will be with him for a long time.

“It looked like it was slow motion and went immediately went down so fast,” said Smalley.

Federal officials are on the way to Butte County to investigate the crash.

PG&E has confirmed that the two people killed in a plane crash in Butte County Tuesday morning were doing contract work for the company.

PG&E spokesperson Jana Morris says the pilot works for AA Aerial Services and the passenger is with Frontline Energy Services.

They were in the air doing a routine check on gas transmission lines in the area of Neal Rd when the plane went down.

The names of the people killed were not immediately released.

Morris says their thoughts and prayers are with the companies and families involved.