A plane that went down in the San Isabel National Forest early Friday has been located about 4 miles southwest of Lake Isabel.
According to Pueblo County Sheriff Kirk Taylor, the crash has claimed the lives of a Pueblo Sheriff's deputy and a retired Pueblo police officer. Their names have not been released at this point.
"The families have been notified, and obviously, we're all pretty devastated," said Taylor with tears in his eyes. "It's been a tough year."
He said both men were his close friends.
The wreckage of the plane was discovered just after 7 p.m. beneath St. Charles Peak. Taylor said the terrain was very rugged and conditions prevented crews from recovering the bodies after it got dark. He said recovery efforts will resume Saturday morning.
The plane was on a mission to spot illegal marijuana fields suspected of being connected to a large grow operation found in the forest several weeks ago --one of the largest busts in state history.
The plane lost contact with ground crews at 9:40 Friday morning.
Later in the day, a hiker spotted smoke, and crews spent much of the afternoon trying to locate where the smoke was coming from. Crews discovered the crash had sparked a fire, and the plane, a lightweight model with fabric skin, was completely burned. Taylor said the fire was still smoldering at the scene late Friday.
It is unknown what caused the crash.
Experts with the National Transportation Safety Board will begin their investigation immediately. They are expected to be on-site about 1:00am Saturday.