Latest crash update: IDs of deceased expected Monday
KREMMLING ” Investigators on Friday crawled among the wreckage of a small plane left flattened and burned in a hay meadow here, as they tried to determine the cause of the crash that killed both people aboard.
Blackened by the flames, the upside-down debris from the bright-red Piper PA-60 Aerostar was concentrated in a small area near an irrigation ditch on the Grand River Ranch, one of its engines partially buried at a 45-degree angle.
“The plane went in fairly steep and direct and hit fairly hard,” said Grand County Sheriff Rod Johnson.
A male and female and two dogs were killed in the crash Thursday night, according to Grand County Coroner Brenda Bock. She was attempting to contact family members in Las Vegas, and positive identification likely will not occur until Monday.
Grand County authorities received a call from the ranch at about 8:25 p.m. after an explosion and fire in the hayfield west of Kremmling alerted residents to the crash.
The plane was bound for McElroy Airfield from the North Las Vegas, Nev., airport.
Although low clouds were reported in the area at the time of the crash, it is believed that the pilot was flying in reasonable visibility, according to Allen Kenitzer, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration.
The 1982 aircraft was registered to BDW Equipment Leasing, LLC, in Las Vegas. The company is owned by Floyd Brooks Williams and Diane L. Williams; a person answering the phone there on Friday declined comment.
An explosion and fire in the hayfield west of Kremmling alerted residents to the crash. Kremmling Police officers, led by Chief Scott Spade, rushed to the scene and were guided across the hayfield’s irrigation ditches in the darkness by Grand River Ranch employees.
Authorities left the bodies of the victims in place overnight to allow a thorough investigation in the daylight.
The National Transportation Safety Board has begun an investigation into the crash.
According to eyewitnesses in Kremmling, the aircraft circled the town at least once while attempting to land at McElroy Field. Unconfirmed accounts also report the aircraft sounded like it was having engine trouble.
While stressing that they are not aircraft accident investigators, sheriff’s Investigator Terry Marchbanks and Deputy Shawn Murphy, who were left to guard the wreckage Friday afternoon, said it appeared the aircraft crashed into the ground at a steep angle.
“It looks like it basically dropped out of the sky,” Murphy said.
Kremmling has had four aviation accidents, including one fatal crash, since 2001.
The most recent crash occurred in 2006. In that crash, the NTSB determined that the pilot was flying in poor weather at night and failed to use his radio properly to illuminate the runway lights at the unmanned airport. The accident occurred four miles west of the runway and resulted in one severe injury and one minor injury to its occupants.
The last fatal accident at airport occurred in 2005 when the pilot failed to clear the rugged hills surrounding Kremmling. The plane was discovered by hikers in a canyon, with the propeller being located 40 feet above the main wreckage.
The model of Piper aircraft that crashed Thursday has been involved in only one other accident, killing three in 2007 in McFarland, Calif.
Will Bublitz of the Sky Hi Daily News contributed to this report.
Jonathan Batuello can be reached at (970) 668-4653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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