The man who was killed when his small airplane crashed in Yellowstone National Park was identified Tuesday as an Oregon man who helped design and build the replica aircraft.

James Wright, 53, of Cottage Grove, Ore., died on impact when his replica of the Hughes H-1B racer airplane crashed near the Midway Geyser Basin on the west side of the park at about 6:30 p.m. Monday.

The plane approached the geyser basin from the west, about treetop level, park officials said.

"I heard the plane overhead, and all the sudden I couldn't see it or hear it," Monique Vollmer, who is visiting the park from Colorado Springs, Colo., said Tuesday.

Vollmer, who was riding her mountain bike in the area about five miles north of Old Faithful, said she looked up and saw the plane explode between the Firehole River and the road connecting Madison Junction and Old Faithful.

"It was burning like a torch," Vollmer said.

Park officials arrived at the scene soon thereafter and quickly extinguished the fire, said park spokeswoman Cheryl Matthews. No one on the ground was injured in the accident.

Debris was strewn throughout the area and the engine and a wing from the plane landed in the Firehole River, where some fuel leaked into the river, she said.

Park staff quickly removed the engine Monday night, and Matthews said cleanup of the spilled fuel would be done as quickly as possible.

"There was not a significant amount of environmental damage," Matthews said. "And no geothermal features were damaged."

The main park road was closed until late Monday night, and some overnight visitors were allowed to park RVs in the Old Faithful parking lot for the night.

The original H-1, which is on display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., was designed by oil and movie tycoon Howard Hughes, who flew it to a speed record in 1935.

The replica was built from scratch in 2002 by a five-man team that included Wright. The team studied photographs, drawings, test results and measurements of the original plane, according to the Associated Press.

Construction took five workers from the Wright Machine Tool Co., which Wright owned, and seven major subcontractors 35,000 collective hours. The work cost Wright nearly $2 million.

Wright himself had been flying planes for 30 years.

When he crashed Monday, he was en route from an air show in Oshkosh, Wis., to another show in McMinnville, Ore.

He had stopped in Gillette to refuel about 90 minutes before the crash.

''The air's thin enough here that the propeller gets stuck in low gear,'' he told The Gillette News-Record. ''I'm just trying to get home.''

Federal investigators were expected to arrive in the Park Tuesday.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.