ALAMOGORDO, N.M. (AP) _ A twin-engine airplane crashed and burned on a mountainside southeast of here, killing at least five people, authorities said today.

Helicopters reached the crash site in steep, rugged terrain early today and retrieved the bodies from the crash late Wednesday of a Mitsubishi MU-2, said Mark Klaene, state police rescue coordinator.

The turboprop-powered airplane, with five or six people aboard, went down on the west side of the Sacramento Mountains after taking off from the Alamogordo-White Sands Regional Airport about 11:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The medical investigator was having trouble verifying how many were in the wreckage because of the fire, Klaene said.

State police Capt. William Relyea identified three of the victims as William Gene Whitehead, no age available, Leigh Whitehead, 36, and Cara Whitehead, 10, all of the San Angelo, Texas, area.

The south-central New Mexico terrain, dotted with sparse desert vegetation, was so rough that rescuers had to rappel down to the crash site.

''It's in very steep terrain, quite a bit of vertical cliffs,'' Klaene said.

The airplane apparently originated in Oregon and was headed to San Angelo, said Roger Myers, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration in Fort Worth, Texas.