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LIBBY, Mont. -- The CEO of an Arizona-based bridge manufacturing company and one of his employees were killed in a plane crash as they flew to northwestern Montana for a company Christmas party.

Stinger Welding Inc. CEO Carl Douglas, of Coolidge, Ariz., and John Smith, also of Coolidge, died in the crash late Tuesday or early Wednesday near Libby, Sheriff Roby Bowe said in a statement.

The men left Coolidge at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday with Douglas piloting the twin-engine Beechcraft, Bowe said. They were to arrive just after midnight in Libby, where Stinger has a bridge- and span-building operation. The men were traveling to Libby for a company Christmas party on Friday, Stinger employees told the Western News.

Colleagues reported the men missing shortly after 11 a.m. Wednesday. A Montana Aeronautics airplane was able to locate the plane's emergency locator transmitter signal near Swede Mountain, about three miles northeast of the Libby airport. Search and rescue crews reached the site at about 8 p.m. Wednesday, Bowe said.

The sheriff's office and county coroner were recovering the men's remains, Bowe said.

Shannon Myslicki, who lives below Swede Mountain, said she saw lights in the sky around midnight Tuesday.

"It was low," she told newspaper. "We heard it once and then heard it again later. It sounded like it was closer to Swede Mountain to the left, rather than the airport."

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash.

Associated Press,

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