By David Schwartz
PHOENIX (Reuters) - A two-time Olympian and prominent U.S. distance runner was among three people killed when his twin-engine plane crashed and burst into flames after takeoff from an Arizona airport, his alma mater said on Friday.
Pat Porter, 53, who ran the 10,000 meters in the 1984 and 1988 Summer Olympics, died along with his 15-year-old son, Connor, and a friend when the aircraft crashed at Sedona Airport on Thursday morning, Adams State University in Alamosa, Colorado, said in a statement.
Aviation records show the Beechcraft 60 aircraft was registered to Porter. Authorities, however, have yet to identify the victims of the crash, which witnesses said sent a huge column of black smoke into the sky.
"At this point there are no indications as to what may have caused this accident," said Tom Little, the National Transportation Safety Board inspector assigned to investigate the crash.
Little said the wreckage would be moved from the site later on Friday and taken to Phoenix for a "detailed examination." Autopsies are expected to take place this weekend, according to the Yavapai Medical Examiner's Office.
Porter finished in 15th place in the 10,000 meters in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. He also ran in the same event at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea.
The Albuquerque, New Mexico, resident was a dominant fixture in U.S. long distance running in the 1980s, capturing a record-setting eight USA Track and Field cross country titles. He is married to Trish Porter, a 1988 Olympian in the high jump.
"Our hearts go out to the victims' families for this tragic loss," Max Siegel, USA Track & Field chief executive, said in a statement. "Pat was one of the greatest American cross country runners in history and inspired a generation of distance runners," he added.
Porter was inducted into the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Hall of Fame last Friday and the Adams State University Hall of Fame in 2000.
(Editing by Tim Gaynor, Greg McCune and Paul Simao)