LAMAR COUNTY, Texas - Three men were killed when their small plane crashed in a field in southern Lamar County on Saturday morning.
The crash site is in a rural area nine miles south of Paris, near the intersection of FM 1498 and County Road 13850, the Paris Police Department said in a post on its Facebook page.
"I just looked over and it was nose-down, spinning," said witness Christopher Brazal. "When I caught it, it hit the ground, burst into flames."
The victims were all associated with Salt Lake City-based Celtic Bank. The bank identified them as Michael Bradley, 44; Mike Endo, 50; and Rob Thompson, 49, who was the pilot.
Eddie Simmons said he was the first firefighter on the scene. "I tried to put as much of the fire out as I could," he said. "The fuel tanks had done exploded, and all the fuel was on fire, and all the inside of the plane was on fire."
Simmons, who has been fighting fires for three decades, said this was one of the worst plane crashes he's ever seen. "I don't want to relive it," he said. "My heart goes out to the families."
According to FlightAware.com, the Piper PA-46 single-engine aircraft had taken off from Cox Field in Paris at 8:50 a.m, bound for Austin.
There was no immediate word on the cause of the crash. The Texas Department of Public Safety said it was reportedly foggy and the plane attempted to turn back toward the airport before descending rapidly and crashing.
The plane burst into flames upon impact, FAA spokesman Roland Herwig told the Salt Lake Tribune.
Its was not clear if the pilot had radioed for assistance prior to the crash, NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway said, according to the Tribune report. NTSB investigators were gathering evidence from the crash site, any witnesses and data radar data to determine why the plane crashed, he said.
"This is a challenging and difficult time for the entire Celtic Bank family," said the company's chairman and CEO Reese Howell Jr. in a written statement. "We are sad and focused exclusively on providing love and support for the families and friends of those lost in the crash."
According to a bank news release, Bradley was a real estate broker working with Celtic on the sale of some property in Texas. Endo was the bank's senior vice president and a commercial loan officer. Thompson was a professional pilot contracted by Celtic to fly the company's plane.
The location of the crash is 90 miles northeast of Dallas.
KXII and The Associated Press contributed to this report.