Cargo plane crash kills 2 during training mission near central Maine airport

Federal authorities are investigating the crash of a twin-engine cargo plane during a training exercise near a small airport in central Maine, which killed both people on board.

The Beechcraft crashed in a field in the town of Litchfield at around 5:45 p.m. Tuesday, the Federal Aviation Administration said. The agency said the National Transportation Safety Board would lead the investigation.

The plane crashed “under unknown circumstances” about half a mile (0.8 kilometers) from Wales Airport, said Sarah Taylor Sulick, a spokesperson for the NTSB. Authorities had not identified the two dead as of Wednesday.

The NTSB was just beginning its investigation on Wednesday, said Ralph Hicks, a senior investigator with the agency. The plane was configured for cargo, but it was being used for flight training at the time of the crash, Hicks said.

“The investigator will document the accident site, and airplane, and gather witness statements and any surveillance video that may have captured any part of the accident flight,” Taylor Sulick said.

Litchfield is a small town close to the state capital of Augusta and is about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Portland, the largest city in Maine.

Wreckage from the crash will be recovered and moved offsite for analysis, Taylor Sulick said, adding that a preliminary report about the crash will likely be available in two to three weeks.

The plane took off at 5:09 p.m. Tuesday from Auburn-Lewiston Airport, about 18 miles (29 kilometers) from Litchfield, Hicks said. He said there was no cargo on board at the time of the crash and it was undetermined whether the student or the instructor was operating the plane when it crashed.

The plane was operated by Wiggins Airways of Manchester, New Hampshire, Hicks said.

Wiggins Airways’ website states that the company is an all-cargo airline with operations in 12 states. It also states that the company “provides time-critical feeder services for major express carriers, namely FedEx and UPS.”

Wiggins representatives said in a statement Wednesday that the company is complying with the investigation.

“We are filled with sorrow at the passing of our flight crew members,” said Wiggins Airways President Donna Nixon. “The identities of the pilots will not be released out of respect to their families and friends. Our focus is on supporting their families and our employees through this difficult time.”

The primary local investigating authority on the crash is the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office, said Shannon Moss, a spokesperson for the Maine State Police. Moss said Maine State Police is assisting with the investigation and declined to comment further.

This scene is very large and it will take two to three days to attend to it, said Kennebec County Sheriff Ken Mason in a Facebook post.

“As we continue our work on the incident in Litchfield, please be patient with our response time for non-emergency calls for service throughout the county,” Mason said. “Please keep the families of the two souls lost in your thoughts.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

Download the FREE Boston 25 News app for breaking news alerts.

Follow Boston 25 News on Facebook and Twitter. | Watch Boston 25 News NOW