Plane crash kills three pilots flying to Cortez
Victims identified as Arizona residents
TELLURIDE – Authorities say all three people killed in a single-engine plane crash near the Telluride Regional Airport were pilots from Arizona.
The San Miguel County sheriff’s office released the identities of the three victims late Monday morning as recovery efforts got underway.
Killed were 57-year-old Sherry Anderson and 64-year-old Sherman Anderson, of Phoenix, and 48-year-old Eric Durban, of Mesa, Ariz. The sheriff’s office says the Andersons were both commercial pilots, while Durban is described as an accomplished former military pilot.
The Andersons are survived by a daughter. Durban is survived by his wife and two children.
A photo of the wreckage tweeted by San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters on Monday shows the charred fuselage of the plane with the wings largely intact. Deputies had previously confirmed there were no survivors.
Sheriff’s deputies began recovery operations at 7 a.m. Monday.
The private Beechcraft Bonanza took off from Telluride at 11:20 a.m. Sunday on its way to Cortez, about 75 miles away, Masters said in a statement.
Air traffic control at the Telluride and Denver airports lost contact with the plane, prompting a search by the sheriff’s office, the Air Force Civil Air Patrol and ground crews, Masters said in a news release at 12:40 p.m. It was found crashed into a cliff band about a mile west of the airport at 5:17 p.m., and deputies confirmed there were no survivors, the sheriff said.
“This is certainly not the outcome we were hoping for, it’s just a terrible, terrible tragedy,” Masters said.
Masters said that when the plane crashed, the emergency location device did not alert initially, making efforts to find the aircraft difficult.
“We couldn’t find the plane to start with because the ELD didn’t go off,” Masters said. “But then it changed locations enough or shifted enough to go off later in the day.”
The cause of the crash is not yet known, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said. There was light snow, with visibility of 1 mile and light winds during takeoff, Masters said.
The last communication with the pilot was from the Telluride runway during takeoff, he said.
The sheriff said recovery efforts started Monday.
“I don’t know what the cause of the crash was,” Masters said.
He said it was apparent the plane struck a vertical rock wall. Masters said the Federal Aviation Administration will investigate the cause.
“It did hit a cliff,” he said. “It was about 300 feet off the top.”
The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the accident, Gregor said.
The Durango Herald contributed to this report.