Pilot, DEA agent from Arkansas, 48, dies in plane crash in Kansas

An investigation continues after a small plane crashed during takeoff from an airport near Kansas City, killing the pilot and a passenger.

The Kansas Highway Patrol identified the victims as the pilot, 48-year-old Jonathan J. Vannatta of Maumelle, and 43-year-old passenger Darcy L. Matthews of Belton, Texas. The Federal Aviation Administration registry lists Vannatta as co-owner of the plane.

In a statement, Jefferson County Sheriff Lafayette Woods, Jr. identified Vannatta as a special agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's Little Rock district office.

Woods wrote that he previously served as a task force officer assigned to that DEA office.

"We get to know many of the agents and we establish a working rapport and a common bond of working together to make our neighborhoods safer and better," he wrote. "That bond is what makes the death of Special Agent Vannatta so incredibly painful and sad."

The accident happened around 4 p.m. Tuesday at Johnson County Executive Airport. The plane was on fire when emergency responders arrived.

FAA spokesman Tony Molinaro said the single-engine Mooney M20S crashed "under unknown circumstances" shortly after departing from the airport.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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