Five people who worked for an environmental response consulting firm were killed in a plane crash Wednesday in Little Rock, Arkansas, while on their way to a metal factory explosion site in Ohio, officials said.
The plane was carrying employees of the Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health when it took off from Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport in Little Rock around noon Wednesday, according to the firm and the Federal Aviation Administration.
The employees were headed to John Glenn Columbus International Airport in Ohio to respond to a fatal explosion at a metal factory, a spokesperson for CTEH told CNN in an email.
The twin-engine plane crashed and burst into flames shortly after takeoff near the Little Rock airport, the National Transportation Safety Board told CNN in an emailed statement.
“We are incredibly saddened to report the loss of our Little Rock colleagues,” Dr. Paul Nony, senior vice president of CTEH, said in a statement. “We ask everyone to keep the families of those lost and the entire CTEH team in their thoughts and prayers.”
The cause of the crash is under investigation by the NTSB. Investigators are expected to arrive at the scene Thursday.
“Once on scene, the investigator will begin the process of documenting the scene and examining the aircraft. Part of the investigation will be to request radar data, weather information, air traffic control communication, maintenance records and the pilot’s medical records. NTSB investigators will look at the human, machine and environment as the outline of the investigation,” NTSB said in the statement.
Emergency services were alerted to the crash at 12:02 p.m., the Little Rock Police Department said in a Facebook post.
There was a line of storms moving through the area around the same time, according to CNN Weather. There were no warnings alerted for the storms, but the National Weather Service issued a special statement calling for gusts up to 50 mph.
The highest gust at the airport was 46 mph, recorded at 12:02 p.m.
CTEH is a consulting firm that provides responsive services, including environmental data collection and management, incident management, industrial hygiene, safety, toxicology and human health consulting for public and private sectors, the company said.
CNN’s Aya Elamroussi and Taylor Ward contributed to this report.