June 26, 2007

Two Men Die in Plane Crash (Plus Video)

By Mike Peters, Greeley Tribune, Colo.

Jun. 26--In a little green glen east of Greeley, shaded by huge cottonwoods, two men died in a fiery plane crash on Monday.

The crash site was alongside 8th Street and about a half-mile from the nearest runway, out of sight from the road, but passers-by could see the billowing smoke just after the plane crash. The "amateur-built, experimental aircraft" went down about 100 feet from a water-filled irrigation ditch, southeast of the Greeley-Weld County Airport.

The fire made identification of the two men in the plane difficult. It may be a day or two before the names are released, but according to the Weld County Coroner investigator Corinna Pina-Belmarez, the victims are believed to be from Brighton and Arizona.

According to records from the National Transportation Safety Board, the listed owner of the plane is Arthur Schwarz, a Denver-area resident. On Monday night, however, in an interview with Denver's FOX 31, Schwarz said he sold the plane to three men who later sold it again. He indicated that the registration should have been changed.

The pilot in Monday's crash apparently was approaching the airport about 11:45 a.m. when the plane went down.

The plane probably cut some power lines when it went down, said Weld County Sheriff's Commander J.D. Broderius. A dozen trucks and a large repair crew from Xcel Energy spent several hours at the scene replacing a pole and repairing damage.

Xcel officials said about 25 customers were affected by the blackout, including some businesses at the airport. Power was not lost at the airport terminal.

The plane hit the ground in a low area, off airport land and close to the Greeley Police Department's firing range.

It's unknown why the plane was low or why it crashed. A representative from the Federal Aviation Administration arrived about two hours after the crash to begin the investigation. The debris from the plane was taken to Beegle's Aircraft Service at the airport so the National Transportation Safety Board could begin an investigation.

By late afternoon, most of the crash site had been cleared, and the bodies of the victims taken to the Weld coroner's autopsy room at McKee Medical Center in Loveland. The autopsies will be performed this morning. At the crash site, debris was scattered over a small area and the fire spread into an area about 75 feet square. Sheriff's deputies, Greeley police and fire units, and dozens of other officials stayed at the scene through the day, despite temperatures that reached more than 100 degrees.


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