Reported plane crash atop Winter Park Resort sends Search and Rescue on wild chase
May 9, 2008
Local rescuers were sent on a proverbial wild goose chase late Thursday afternoon after it was falsely reported that an aircraft had crashed atop Winter Park Mountain. According to Fraser-Winter Park Police Chief Glen Trainor, his office received a call about 4:30 p.m. from the U.S. Air Force Rescue Coordination Center at Peterson Air Force Base near Colorado Springs. That center reported that an aircraft crash had just taken place in the local area. The Air Force reported that they had detected a signal from a radio transponder which indicated an aircraft had crashed at the Winter Park Resort. The center said the transponders GPS coordinates indicated that the crash site was in the Parsenn Bowl area.Through the Grand County Dispatch Center in Hot Sulphur Springs, the Fraser-Winter Park Police requested immediate assistance to conduct a rescue. Within minutes, units from the Grand County Search and Rescue, Grand County Emergency Medical Services, Grand County Sheriffs Office and Fraser-Winter Park Police assembled at the base of the Mary Jane ski area, which is part of Winter Park Resort. Also responding were Winter Park Resort personnel.However, it soon became apparent to the rescuers that a mistake may have occurred. The reason why they questioned the Air Forces report of a crash on Winter Park Mountain was that reports were coming in that a small civilian aircraft had crashed that afternoon, but in neighboring Gilpin County. According to news reports, a small civilian airplane had gone down about four miles west of Black Hawk in Gilpin County. A passenger aboard that downed aircraft reportedly used a cell phone to contact the Gilpin County Sheriffs Office and provided GPS coordinates of the crash site. Its location was confirmed by a helicopter from Denvers Channel 7 News that apparently arrived first on the scene.However unlikely it appeared that two airplane crashes had happened on the same afternoon within a few miles of one another, the rescuers decided they could not take the chance. Admitting the situation was confused, Grand County Search and Rescue leader Greg Foley decided to send some of his rescuers to Parsenn Bowl to confirm whether or not a downed aircraft was actually there. With one of Winter Park Resorts SnoCats leading off to break trail through the freshly fallen snow, Search and Rescue members aboard snowmobiles sped up the mountain. Within about 20 minutes they arrived at the GPS coordinates in Parsenn Bowl but could find no evidence of an aircraft crash.Via telephone, Chief Trainor finally reached the Air Force center to reconfirm the GPS coordinates of the crash site. On a second look, the Air Force admitted the coordinates indicated by the transponder signal was coming from Gilpin County.Summing up the incident, Trainor described it as an exercise in futility, but an excellent response by our local agencies. He half-jokingly remarked that the Air Forces mistake in reporting the coordinates made him wonder how accurately they are dropping bombs in Afghanistan.