Crash investigation temporarily delayed
An investigation into a single-engine plane crash Monday that claimed the lives of a Steamboat Springs couple will be delayed until after Christmas, said K.C. Hume, Moffat County Sheriff’s Office investigator.
The plane crashed early Monday afternoon in a remote area of Moffat County about 10 miles west of the runway at Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden. The plane was scheduled to arrive at 12:46 p.m.
Routt County Search and Rescue discovered the 1986 Piper PA-46 Malibu about 4:45 p.m. on private agricultural land about 2 1/2 miles northwest of Elkhead Reservoir, close to Moffat County Road 178.
Joseph and Suzette Brumleve, a couple with three daughters and two grandchildren, were found dead at the scene. They had been flying into Hayden from Hutchinson, Kan.
Mark Stine, the Brumleves’ son-in-law, said the couple flew the plane to Hutchinson last week for its annual maintenance inspection. The drove back to Hutchinson during the weekend to pick up the plane and fly home to Routt County. There was no indication the plane was experiencing any specific problems that led to the inspection.
The cause of the crash is unknown.
An investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board was expected to arrive Tuesday. However, NTSB officials told Hume they won’t arrive until after Christmas.
Allen Kenitzer, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, said recordings of all in-flight communications between the plane and air traffic control have been turned over to the NTSB. He would not comment on the specifics of those communications, nor would he confirm who was piloting the plane. Joe and Suzette Brumleve were licensed pilots.
Kenitzer referred all inquiries to the investigator in charge at the Denver office of the NTSB. Phone messages left with the NTSB were not returned Tuesday afternoon.
The Moffat County Sheriff’s Office returned to the scene Tuesday morning, where the downed aircraft remains, to disable its Emergency Locator Transmitter.
The Sheriff’s Office is in charge of the site until the NTSB arrives and takes over, Hume said.
Hume, who was at the scene along with other law enforcement and search and rescue personnel until about 9 p.m. Monday, said the crash site is “fairly well-contained” in a small area.
“It’s not like some others where it’s spread over a mile or half mile,” he said.
Hume said the Sheriff’s Office is continuing to monitor the sight and is restricting all access.
“We want to preserve the scene until the NTSB gets here, so they have the best opportunity to determine what caused the crash,” he said.
Tom Gilliland Sr., who lives about a half mile north of the crash site, heard the aircraft fly overhead shortly before it crashed Monday.
“I heard an aircraft over the house about 12:45 p.m.,” Gilliland said. “I’m a pilot, so I was curious because the weather, at that time, was blowing snow, and I knew it was conditions that were not too good visually.”
Gilliland didn’t see the plane crash, but he said he knew something wasn’t right.
“It sort of surprised me that there would be a plane flying in those conditions,” he said. “It was flying really low, but I didn’t know (it had crashed) until later in the day, almost dark.”
Gilliland’s property borders the crash site, so he went to catch a glimpse Tuesday morning.
“It’s odd where the plane went down,” he said. “There are bluffs all around it, and it went down in a low place on the ranch. It looked like it went straight in. There is no debris field whatsoever. It looks like it came straight down, nose first. The tail is off and the only thing that was left was from the entrance door back. Forward, there’s nothing.”
– Brent Boyer contributed to this report
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It seems like the best celestial events too often happen in the wee hours of the morning, in the cold dead of winter.