Published May 28, 2014
A failed landing attempt at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport on Sunday ended in a fiery crash, killing the plane's co-pilot and injuring the other two people on board, authorities said.
The pilot of the private twin-engine plane, identified as a 1994 Canadair Challenger twin-engine business jet, reported high winds during its final approach to the western Colorado airport, KDVR-TV reported. The crash occurred as the plane made a second landing attempt.
“Missed approach, N115WF. 33 knots of tail wind,” the pilot is heard saying a few minutes before the 12:22 p.m. crash, the station reported, citing a recording of the air traffic control radio transmission.
The Pitkin County Sheriff's Office identified the man killed in the crash as Sergio Carranza Brabata, 54, a Mexican native.
The other two people onboard the plane, whom authorities did not immediately identify, were also Mexican men, officials said. A spokeswoman for Aspen Valley Hospital earlier Sunday said one patient was in fair condition and one was listed as critical, though she later said both had been transferred elsewhere, The Associated Press reported.
The cause of the crash remains under investigation.
"Right now, we have no indication that there was anything wrong prior to landing," said Alex Burchetta, a sheriff's office spokesman.
Burchetta added that the injuries were "traumatic in nature, but they were not thermal," indicating that the fire never reached inside the cabin.
Authorities said the flight originated in Mexico and stopped in Tuscon, Ariz. before heading to Aspen.
Jay Sills, who was driving near the airport at the time of the crash, told Fox Report on Sunday that conditions around the site were "pretty gusty" when the plane made its second attempt to land.
"I just saw the smoke, and when I came around the corner, the plane was flipped over," Sills said.
Comedian Kevin Nealon, an apparent eyewitness, tweeted details about the crash.
"Horrible plane crash here at Aspen airport," he said. "Exploded into flames as it was landing. I think it was a private jet."
Country singer LeAnn Rimes, who also witnessed the crash, tweeted, "So sad! Horrible plane crash we just saw happen at the Aspen airport."
Aspen, nestled in the Rocky Mountains, is about 100 miles southwest of Denver. Landing at the airport is considered challenging due to the surrounding mountains, and a private jet crash at the airport in 2001 killed all 18 onboard, KDVR-TV reported.
The airport remained closed late Sunday afternoon, and investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board were expected to examine the incident.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.