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Plane Crashes Into Ariz. School, 2 Aboard Dead

A small plane nosedived into a high school in a small eastern Arizona town Friday afternoon and exploded, killing both people aboard, authorities said.

There were no reports of injuries on the ground. Classes are out for the summer at the school, authorities said.

The Cessna circled the area two or three times before it suddenly crashed into the main building at Round Valley High School in Eagar at about 2 p.m., Apache County sheriff's Sgt. Richard Guinn said.

Show Low Fire Department spokesman Eric Neitzel said two people aboard the plane were confirmed dead but their names and hometowns were not immediately available.

CBS affiliate KPHO reports the plane crashed shortly after a group of Arizona politicians left the school. There was no indication that anyone was inside the school when the plane crashed.

State Treasurer Dean Martin, who was in Eagar, said he and others left their vehicles at the school before heading out on a forest tour. They drove off just minutes before the plane hit and looked in the rearview mirror to see smoke rising into the sky.

"Initially we thought someone tossed a cigarette butt," said Martin, a state gubernatorial candidate. "But shortly after, there was this massive fireball."

Flames and smoke were still emanating from the two-story school eight hours after the crash.

There was no immediate word on who owned the plane and where it was headed. But Neitzel said witnesses told authorities the Cessna took off from nearby Springerville Airport and experienced some sort of malfunction while it circled before veering into the school building.

KPHO correspondent Cara Liu reports authorities said the pilot, who had taken on a fuel tank of gas before takeoff, must have had to deal with strong winds in the area.

National Transportation Safety Board officials were expected at the crash scene Saturday morning to handle the investigation, according to Neitzel.

Fire crews from nearly a dozen small towns in the region raced to battle the flames. Officials evacuated homes in neighborhoods east and north of the school. KPHO reported 100 families were in a temporary shelter.

The blaze crashed in an administrative area of the school near some classrooms. Aviation fuel and paper fueled the long-burning fire, authorities said.

The school serves about 500 students in Eagar and nearby Springerville and is about 200 miles east of Phoenix.

A Friday night event scheduled at the high school was moved to another building.

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