FAA: 3 dead in small plane crash in central Ill.

By the Associated Press | July 24, 2011 | 1:44 PM EDT

RANTOUL, Ill. (AP) — Three people died in a fiery crash Sunday after a single-engine airplane went down shortly after takeoff in central Illinois, authorities said.

The Piper PA 46 was carrying three people when it crashed at the Rantoul Airport about 125 miles southwest of Chicago, said Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Roland Herwig. He said the plane was destroyed by fire.

Authorities were notified of the crash before 10 a.m. Sunday. Further details or a possible cause were not immediately available.

"The plane had just taken off from the airport and was starting to gain altitude when it went down," Rantoul Police Chief Paul Farber told The News-Gazette newspaper in Champaign. "We have no further details on how it happened."

Farber said severe weather was rolling into the area at the time of the crash.

The victims' names were not immediately released. Farber said the dead are believed to be residents of Champaign County in east-central Illinois.

The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board were investigating the crash.