SILVERTON, Colo. (AP) – Federal investigators arrived Tuesday at the scene of a plane crash in the southwest Colorado mountains as authorities looked for bodies and clues from an accident that killed three bank employees and a fourth person as they traveled to a Christmas party.

The conditions of the search were punishing. The elevation of the crash site is about 11,000 feet above sea level, the temperature fell to 22 degrees below zero and the debris was spread across an area that covers 1¼ miles.

The National Transportation Safety Board says investigators may have to wait until summer before they can recover all of the clues from the crash. Authorities are still trying to find two of the four victims.

La Plata County sheriff’s spokesman Dan Bender said Tuesday more than 30 rescuers from nine agencies were involved in the search.

“It is a very huge debris field. The search area is below the mountains below the timber line,” Bender said.

The single-engine plane was flying from Durango to Aspen when it crashed Saturday afternoon. Local officials say the crash site was about 1½ miles north of Silverton.

According to the president of Alpine Bank, three of the victims were Alpine Bank employees on their way to a Christmas party in Snowmass Village.

The San Juan County sheriff’s office identified two of the victims as 26-year-old Jenna Rich and 24-year-old Tyler Black. Both worked for Alpine Bank.

“The entire company is deeply touched by this event,” bank president Glen Jammaron said Monday in a statement. “All were highly regarded and will be remembered fondly.”

It was the second fatal plane crash near Silverton this year. A pilot and passenger were killed in the July 14 crash of a small plane. The cause is still under investigation.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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