ASHLAND, Wis. — A pilot apparently was attempting to land a single-engine plane when it crashed near the airport on Madeline Island in northwestern Wisconsin, killing him and a passenger, authorities said Sunday.

The crash was reported just after 6:30 p.m. Saturday, the Ashland County Sheriff's Office said. La Pointe police responded and within five minutes found the plane engulfed in flames in a heavily wooded area about 150 to 200 yards south of the runway on Madeline Island, a popular Lake Superior vacation destination that's one of the Apostle Islands.

Ashland County Sheriff Mick Brennan told the Duluth News Tribune ( ) a witness saw the plane try to land, then abort the landing and apparently turn to make a second approach. The plane then went down just short of the runway.

"There was a loud crash and explosion when it crashed and then a fire," Brennan said after returning from viewing the crash site Sunday. '"It was engulfed in flames when the fire department arrived."

The two men killed in the crash were the only ones aboard, Brennan said. Their names and hometowns were not immediately released pending notification of relatives and confirmation of their identities, but the sheriff said they were not residents of the island or the immediate region. Their bodies were removed from the crash site Sunday and taken away for autopsies.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Roland Herwig said the aircraft was a single-engine Piper PA-24 Comanche. That plane was registered to a company in La Crosse. Herwig said he could not provide any additional information Sunday.

The newspaper said the weather was good around the time of the crash at the airport in Ashland, about 15 miles southwest of the crash site.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating.