The Federal Aviation Administration believes a small plane that plunged into a northern New Mexico lake, scattering debris and bundles of cocaine, departed from Arizona, authorities said Tuesday.
Investigators have isolated what they believe was the aircraft on radar and traced the blip back to Prescott, about 100 miles north of Phoenix, FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford said.
Debris recovered from Heron Lake after Sunday's crash identified the plane as a twin-engine Cessna 310, he said. The identification is considered preliminary because "it's obviously hard to say anything definitive as long as the plane is at the bottom of the lake," Lunsford said.
It's also too early in the investigation to say how fast the plane may have been going when it hit the water, he said.
State police divers have found only small pieces of the plane _ the largest about the size of a piece of paper _ and only pieces of bodies unidentifiable to anyone but a medical investigator, state police spokesman Lt. Eric Garcia said.
They also recovered 23 bundles of cocaine from the cold, murky water, he said. No more cocaine was found Tuesday, he said.
Garcia wouldn't speculate on the purpose of the aircraft's flight, saying authorities would assume only "that a plane crashed and that there was narcotics aboard it." State police have "strong leads" about who was on the plane, but aren't releasing details, he said.
"We have been able to retrieve a significant amount of information from the debris we've recovered," he said. That debris included membership cards, but Garcia wouldn't release the names on those cards.
Lunsford said no flight plan was filed, and authorities don't know who was on board and whether there were passengers, as well as a pilot.
The human remains have been turned over to the state Office of the Medical Investigator.
Witnesses reported the plane crashed into the lake, about 100 miles north of Santa Fe, at about 10:30 a.m. Sunday. Lake patrol officers subsequently found several packages of cocaine floating on the water.
The state police dive team members have been working 100 to 200 feet below the surface in extremely cold water. In addition, 30 mph winds created choppy waters Tuesday, making conditions hazardous for the divers as waves hit hard against their flat-bottom boat, Garcia said.
State police officials decided to pull the divers at the end of the day Tuesday, but Garcia said officers in both uniform and plainclothes will remain on the site "to see if anything shows up."
The FAA investigation into the cause of the crash has to wait on getting the plane to the surface, Lunsford said. And given the nature of the debris _ the cocaine _ law enforcement also will be investigating, he said.
Air trafficking historically has been a significant issue along the Southwest border, state police Chief Robert Shilling said Monday.
In April 2010, state police called about the hard landing of a small plane outside Tucumcari in eastern New Mexico found a stash of more than 400 pounds of marijuana inside the plane and hidden in nearby bushes.