Plane wreckage found | SteamboatToday.com

Plane wreckage found

Authorities locate Cessna near Fish Creek Reservoir; both men killed

Blythe Terrell

— Authorities found the wreckage Tuesday of a twin-engine Cessna 310 that disappeared Sunday morning. The passenger and pilot – a Hayden man and his son – were killed.

Mark Klapperich, 56, of Hayden, and Levi Klapperich, 26, of Durango, died in the crash. The plane was found about 1 p.m. Tuesday, six miles east of Steamboat Springs near Fish Creek Reservoir.

“My understanding is it’s at 9,900 feet, in a fairly heavily treed area,” said Randall Hannaway, a member of Routt County Search and Rescue. “It’s very close to the reservoir, based on what I looked at on the map. It would appear to me that it would be very rugged terrain.”

Hannaway said it was too early to determine the cause of the crash. The National Transportation Safety Board was on its way to review the scene, he said.

“The plane itself, my impression was it was in very rough shape,” Hannaway said. “It sounded like there was a fire.”

The plane was on the northwest side of the reservoir, he said.

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Levi Klapperich was flying the Cessna that disappeared Sunday morning after leaving Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden. Klapperich was a licensed commercial pilot as well as a flight and ground instructor, according to Federal Aviation Administration records.

The plane was listed as belonging to Robert Hutter of Bayfield. No one answered the phone at his home, but a 310 Cessna was listed for sale on several Web sites under his name and telephone number. It’s unclear whether that was the same plane.

The Klapperiches were heading for Fort Collins-Loveland Municipal Airport. Levi Klapperich had left Durango on Saturday to pick up his father at YVRA, his family said.

Their destination was Boulder, for the annual Bolder Boulder 10K race. Several members of the family planned to run it this year, Doug Klapperich said. He is Mark Klapperich’s nephew and Levi Klapperich’s cousin.

“It was mainly family from Colorado that had assembled on the Front Range to rendezvous and run the race Monday,” Doug Klapperich said. Klapperich, who earlier described his family as close knit and said Levi and Mark were “key components of that,” could not be reached after the wreckage was found.

On Monday, the Civil Air Patrol had expanded the search to encompass 4,000 square miles in 11 counties. That included nine in Colorado and two in Wyoming, said Maj. Mark Young, Civil Air Patrol spokesman. The search covered the same area Tuesday, he said.

Search and Rescue spokeswoman Riley Polumbus said a searcher had noticed an unusual smell while snowmobiling Monday.

“At one point, one of the rescuers smelled something and thought, ‘That’s not a snowmobile smell,'” Polumbus said. “They marked it on GPS.”

When the rescue teams returned for debriefing that night, the smell was one of the significant findings of the search. The team returned Tuesday and found the wreckage quickly, Polumbus said. She said she thought it was unlikely that searchers on planes would have been able to see the site.

“I think the one thing we really wanted to stress was to thank everybody, the family members and all their friends, and all the different agencies that helped,” Hannaway said.

Polumbus and Hannaway said they knew of no previous plane crashes in the spot. But people get lost, stuck or hurt when snowmobiling or skiing near Fish Creek Reservoir each year, Polumbus said.

“There’s 10 feet of snow up there, more or less,” she said. “It’s treacherous terrain.”

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