FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating how two people died Monday afternoon in a Northwest Fresno plane crash.
Authorities said they were killed shortly after the plane took off from Sierra Sky Park around 1:30 p.m. The bodies were recovered by firefighters hours later, and crews will guard the scene until the NTSB starts their investigation in the morning.
Along the Sierra Sky Park runway are homes, neighbors and friends. So, a deadly plane crash one day after Christmas is affecting their entire community.
"Something like this hasn't happened in a long time," neighbor Mike Rhodes said.
Rhodes lives along the airstrip, and he was outside when the plane took off.
"I was over here at this guy's hanger. I heard him rotate and climb out," he recalled. "I heard the engine stutter and I heard a thud and that's when we ran out here to see if could find the airplane."
Rhodes and first responders found the plane partially submerged in the San Joaquin River, just north of the runway. Pieces of the plane were scattered in the water and the aircraft itself was bent backward and in half.
"On an environmental level, we made sure there was no leaking fluids are going to get into the actual river," Capt. Pete Martinez with the Fresno Fire Department said. "And so our rescue team, as well as our HAZMAT team, were down there making the scene was secure."
It took firefighters several hours to recover the bodies before they handed the scene to the FAA, in what's likely the first double-fatal crash at this airport.
"This is pretty significant, two victims," Martinez said. "Especially at a historical site like Sierra Sky Park."
Now the FAA and NTSB are tasked with figuring out how and why the plane went down and find the answers this small community needs to move forward and heal from loss.