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OURAY COUNTY, COLORADO (WBRC) -
Rescue crews have recovered the bodies of five people from Gadsden who died in a plane crash in a Colorado reservoir.
The Ouray County coroner positively identified the bodies as: the pilot, Jimmy Hill, 48, passengers Katrina Barksdale, 40, her sons Kobe Barksdale, 11, and Xander Barksdale, 8, and Katrina's nephew Seth McDuffie, 14. Jimmy Hill and Katrina Barksdale were described as friends.
Authorities said the bodies of Katrina Barksdale, her sons Kobe and Xander and her nephew Seth McDuffie will be returned to Alabama.
Hill's body will undergo an autopsy by the National Transportation Safety Board, then his body will also be returned to Alabama.
Authorities announced earlier this week they had located five bodies amid the plane's wreckage in the water. But due to the orientation of the wreckage and damage to the plane, divers could not recover the victims or the rest of the plane until the wreckage was brought to shore.
Thursday, divers worked to secure the plane for transportation to the shore, Ouray County Public Information Officer Marti Whitmore said. The wreckage was dragged under the water, then brought to the surface near a dock.
The weather held out long enough for recovery teams to do their job.
"High winds would have been a deal breaker. It would have been a safety issue so we were very, very grateful that the winds died down. We had very strong winds last night. They died down this morning," Whitmore said Thursday.
"We offer our condolences, our sincere condolences to the families," Whitmore said. "While all of these people are from Alabama, I think this community has felt the loss very deeply as well."
A special dive team was called in to assist in the plane's recovery. The altitude of the reservoir is 6,800 feet above sea level. That height, combined with the cold water and depth of the wreckage, will make the recovery more challenging.
The people in the plane were heading to Colorado for spring break on Saturday when the plane crashed around 1:50 p.m. local time.
Preliminary information from the NTBS indicates Hill reported the plane was in a spin before it lost communication and crashed into the water.
Witnesses described hearing the engine cut in and out, then going dead. Between eight to 10 people saw the plane spiral out of the clouds and go into the reservoir.
Pilot Jimmy Hill was a prominent businessman who owned Gadsden Tool, Gadsden Aviation and the Airport Café.
Brothers Kobe and Xander were students at Mitchell Elementary School in Gadsden. The community held a memorial for them and their mom Katrina at the school on Sunday.
A memorial for Seth McDuffie, an eighth grader at Westbrook Christian School in Rainbow City, was also held at his school on Sunday.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.
Now that the bodies have been recovered, the NTSB and FAA will take over the investigation into the plane's crash, Ouray County officials said. The plane's fuselage has been secured for their investigation.