Body of pilot recovered in upper Fryingpan Valley
EAGLE COUNTY ” The body of a pilot who crashed Tuesday in the upper Fryingpan Valley drainage was recovered Thursday by West Eagle County Search and Rescue, according to team member Scott Thompson.
A helicopter shuttled the crew to the wreckage of a single-engine Cessna 182 near Josephine Lake, about 8 miles east of Thomasville and 40 miles east of Basalt.
“The person perished on impact,” said Thompson, who also serves as Eagle County deputy coroner.
The Associated Press identified the pilot as Michael Loveless, 51, of Price, Utah. Thompson confirmed the pilot’s identity. Loveless was alone, authorities said.
The rescue helicopter was able to land close to the crash site even though the area surrounding the lake is rugged terrain the Holy Cross Wilderness. The airplane crashed in a relatively flat area, Thompson said.
The cause of the crash is unknown at this time. The Federal Aviation Administration typically sends an investigator to an accident scene, said spokesman Mike Fergus, but it was unknown if an investigator would go to this inaccessible site. The agency forwards its reports on accidents to the National Transportation Safety Board, which is the lead agency on investigations, Fergus said. No officials with the NTSB could be reached for comment.
The retrieval operation took about 45 minutes Thursday morning. The body was taken to a pathologist in Grand Junction, according to Thompson.
The body couldn’t be recovered Wednesday because of poor weather. The Associated Press erroneously reported that a ground crew reached the crash site late Wednesday night and recovered the body. The AP cited the Civil Air Patrol as the source of its information.
Loveless left a Denver-area airport Tuesday afternoon and headed for Aspen, according to the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office. The last radar contact with his aircraft was around Josephine Lake at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday. A search was launched Wednesday by the Civil Air Patrol and National Guard along with ground crews from search and rescue groups from Eagle and Pitkin counties. The search was hampered because there was no signal from an emergency locator transmitter.
A National Guard helicopter spotted the wreckage at about noon Wednesday and confirmed the pilot was dead.
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Local fire officials in Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield counties are heightening their fire concerns, and starting this week Stage 1 fire restrictions will be enacted. Stage 1 means no campfires in undeveloped sites, no fireworks and no smoking outside unless it’s in an area cleared of all combustible materials.