PERTH, Australia (AP) _ A twin-engine charter airplane crashed Friday during a thunderstorm in a gold-mining region of western Australia, killing all 10 people aboard, police said.

Local residents said the plane exploded in a ball of flames, scattering wreckage across a wide area. The crash occurred near the gold-mining town of Leonara at 10:20 a.m. (8:20 p.m. EST Thursday).

The turboprop, chartered by a mining company, slammed into the ground on an Outback ranch while en route to Kalgoolie, site of the Australian gold rush of the late 1800s.

It was the worst air accident in Australia since 1983, when 12 people were killed in the crash of another mining company plane in Queensland.

The Australian Associated Press said the plane was believed to be transporting directors and staff of the Perth-based Independent Resources Ltd., a mining company.

Police said the victims included the pilot, six women and three men.

Air safety investigators were sifting through the wreckage to determine the cause of the crash.

Further details were not immediately available.