Three OK after plane crash
Three Texans walked away intact from a serious plane crash near the summit of Independence Pass Monday morning.
Pilot Robin Clearman, 40, of Sugarland, Texas, and family members Mark Clearman, 47, and Floyd Clearman, 69, all sustained “scratches,” but were otherwise OK, according to Deputy Tom Grady of the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office.
Clearman’s four-seater, single-engine Piper aircraft wasn’t so lucky. “It was totally destroyed,” Grady said.
Both wings of the airplane were broken off in the crash landing. The plane’s left wing struck the upper Lost Man Loop Trail sign post, located at the hairpin turn where the “top cut” of the summit begins.
“It actually crashed right into the trailhead sign post,” Grady said. “That took the left wing off and sent the plane into a flat spin. Then it went across a shallow creek, hit an embankment there, which took off the right wing, and then went up the hill a little bit where it came to rest.”
When the plane finally stopped, it was approximately 75 yards from Highway 82, Grady said.
Clearman took off from the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport at approximately 9 a.m., Grady said. The crash occurred about 20 minutes later. Local authorities said they did not receive any SOS or distress calls from the pilot. Authorities were alerted to the crash by witnesses at 9:30 a.m. Monday.
The crash is being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board, but Grady is confident he already knows the cause of the crash.
“Pure inexperience in mountain flying,” he said. “There’s no doubt in my mind.
“[Clearman] was trying to climb to gain altitude enough to get over the pass and the plane just wouldn’t do it. Personally, I think it’s just inexperience with mountain flying.”
Clearman was at about 11,500 feet in elevation when he crashed, according to Grady.
“He was an easy thousand feet from getting over that hump. But the way he crashed it, it was just magical,” he said. Grady added that the three men were “very lucky.”
Grady, who was about nine miles east of Aspen Monday morning assisting in the recovery effort of a drowned woman, said he and others saw the plane fly overhead. “And it didn’t appear to be too powerful,” he said.
A Denver salvage company was contacted yesterday to remove the plane.
“The fuselage remained intact and that’s why the people in it didn’t get hurt; but the rest of it, it’s gone,” he said.
The Aspen Volunteer Fire Department, Aspen Ambulance and the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office responded to the accident.
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