On June 30, James and Amy Kerker’s single-engine airplane was en route to Moab, Utah, when it crashed suddenly at Loveland Ski Area and burst into flames. They were on vacation with their 6-year-old son, Lucas. All three died in the crash.
The Kerkers, from Raymond, Ohio, were identified Tuesday, July 1, by the Clear Creek County coroner as the victims of the fatal crash. James Kerker, the pilot, was 43. Amy Kerker was 39.
The aircraft also was identified as a Piper PA 28-235, which took off at 8:10 a.m. from Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport in Broomfield, according to a Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Office news release.
Identifying information from the plane has not yet been released, as the Piper’s tail was destroyed in the crash, according to reports by the Denver Post. The cause of the crash remains under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.
Keith Holloway, a spokesmen for the NTSB in Washington, D.C., said Tuesday, July 1, it would take some time before investigators would be able file a preliminary report or determine the cause of the crash.
As of Tuesday afternoon, investigators were compiling records that may shed light on what happened Monday morning, including a detailed flight plan, weather records at the time and place of the crash, pertinent radar data, any potential recordings between James Kerker and local air traffic controllers, and Kerker’s pilot and aircraft records, Holloway said.
According to Federal Aviation Administration records, Kerker received his third-class private pilot’s certificate in April 2012 and was certified to fly single-engine airplanes. A third-class rating is the FAA’s lowest in a three-class rating system and is used to identify non-paid, private pilots. A first-class rating is designated to airline captains, and a second-class rating refers to commercial pilots who are flying for hire.
James Kerker underwent an FAA medical exam in April 2014. He was diagnosed with near-sightedness and was required to wear glasses while operating an airplane, according to an FAA airman details report.
In addition to James Kerker’s pilot information, records show his 1964 Piper PA 28-235 was registered and valid with the FAA as of July 2012. The aircraft’s registration was not due to expire until July 31, 2015. The FAA website notes registration records do not necessarily reflect an aircraft’s ability to fly. Maintenance and inspection records were not readily available at press time.
Professionally, James Kerker was a crew chief for seven years in the U.S. Air Force in Washington state before earning a bachelor’s of applied science degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Washington in 1999, according to a LinkedIn profile for James Kerker of Raymond, Ohio. He then worked for Honda’s research and development team and as an account manager at FARO Technologies before striking out on his own in January 2013 as owner of iInspect3D — Technology & Engineering Services LLC, also in Raymond, Ohio.
Amy Kerker was a nurse practitioner at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, according to a Facebook page in her name.
According to eyewitness accounts from a hiker who has now been identified as Rico Argentati, of Centennial, the single-engine Piper was traveling west at about 8:45 a.m. Monday, June 30, over Loveland Ski Area toward Loveland Pass. The plane did not appear to have enough altitude, Argentati told the Denver Post, banked back east toward Denver, lost power and crashed near Chair 5 at Loveland Valley, the beginner area at Loveland Ski Area.
Capt. Randy Long, of the sheriff’s office, said Monday from the scene that the plane immediately burst into flames when it crashed. The fire was burning a 40-by-40-foot area in the trees above the Loveland Valley parking lot. Long said the fire was mostly confined to the immediate area of the crash, was burning on the ground and was not in danger of spreading to nearby trees.
The fire was contained at about 11:15 a.m. At that time sheriff’s office investigators and the Clear Creek County coroner were allowed to inspect the crash site, Long said. Investigators from the NTSB joined first responders shortly after noon.