The plane was not de-iced while on the ground for about an hour. With such a short time on the ground, it was the pilot's choice not to de-ice, said Steve McLaughlin of MTJ.

The plane crashed about a quarter-mile north of the airport, just yards from a dairy feedlot crowded with 320 Holsteins.

Ty Cox, who was detailing vehicles for Thrifty Car Rental at the airport, said he saw the plane take off. He said "it looked like a normal takeoff" as the jet lifted into the air. Cox said he turned away but within seconds heard "a big boom." Then he saw a plume of dark smoke.

A torn swath of brush showed the plane crashed less than 300 yards from the end of the shorter of Montrose's two runways.

The plane went through a fence and skidded through the chico brush, sage and cedars for nearly a quarter of a mile, stopping within feet of a steep, water-filled arroyo.

Other witnesses described hearing a boom and several smaller explosions, then seeing flames shooting 30 to 40 feet in the air and black smoke billowing from the wreckage.