Eagle County plane crash kills one
EAGLE COUNTY ” A small airplane that crashed Tuesday in a remote part of the upper Fryingpan Valley, killing the pilot, was located Wednesday, but poor weather prevented a search crew from landing at the site and retrieving the victim, authorities said.
The Cessna 182 crashed for unknown reasons about one-tenth of a mile east of Josephine Lane, the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office said. That is in rugged terrain about 8 miles east-northeast of Thomasville and roughly 40 miles east of Basalt. The crash site is in the Holy Cross Wilderness just west of the Continental Divide.
The pilot was the airplane’s lone occupant, sheriff’s office spokeswoman Shannon Cordingly said. The plane left Rocky Mountain Metro Airport in Jefferson County near Denver at about 2:45 p.m. Tuesday. The “last radar ping” was at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday near Josephine Lake, she said.
Aircraft from the Civil Air Patrol and U.S. National Guard searched the area Wednesday morning, and ground crews from West Eagle County, Pitkin County and Vail search and rescue organizations mobilized in the Fryingpan Valley.
The air search was initially futile, and the ground search was suspended at 11 a.m. because of a lack of information.
“The last point known was a radar sight. We never received any ELT signals,” Basalt Fire Chief and West Eagle County Search and Rescue member Scott Thompson said. ELT refers to the emergency locator transmitter that aircraft carry to disclose their whereabouts in case of a crash.
A National Guard helicopter found the wreckage at about noon, landed and checked the scene.
“The report from the scene was it was a non-survivable crash,” Thompson said.
A helicopter from a private aviation firm in Rifle, DBS, was hired to shuttle Thompson and search team member Cleve Williams to the site. The chopper encountered thick clouds around Ruedi Reservoir at about 2:45 p.m. and was forced to scrap the mission, Thompson said.
They will attempt to return to the site Thursday, if weather allows. The weather is supposed to improve later in the week. Thompson will serve dual roles as a search team member and as an assistant coroner in Eagle County. The plan is to land near the crash site and retrieve the pilot’s body via helicopter, Thompson said. The U.S. Forest Service has granted permission to use the helicopter in a designed wilderness area, where mechanized uses are banned except in emergencies.
The Federal Aviation Administration didn’t return a telephone call for comment on how the crash will be investigated.
Thompson said his understanding is the plane crashed in a relatively flat area. Although there are high peaks in the area, the plane apparently didn’t slam into a mountain.
The sheriff’s office reported the plane’s destination was Aspen. Aircraft flying between Denver and Aspen generally use a flight path that takes them over the Fryingpan Valley. The Civil Air Patrol told the Denver Post that the plane’s ultimate destination was Price, Utah.
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