HUERFANO — The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators were notified Thursday afternoon, September 13, that a small plane had crashed in the remote mountainous area between Cuchara and Trinidad.
Preliminary reports indicated the aircraft crash site was in Las Animas County, but later data placed it in Huerfano County. The white and blue Mooney M20, a turbo charged single engine private aircraft, had flown into the mountainside where it crashed and then burned. Investigators have not released the identification (N) number of the plane or the destination.
It is known that the aircraft was on a flight from Hillsborough, North Carolina with the pilot, 57- year -old Steven John Huber and his passenger, 69- year-old Dr. Bruce Dalton. Huber fueled the aircraft in Pueblo, Colorado shortly before taking off and flying south southeast to where it struck the mountain top at the 12,400 foot elevation.
The crash site was up a line drawn from Trinidad to Alamosa and in the vicinity of an area just south of the Cuchara ski area. The aircraft was only 300 feet short of clearing the terrain. Weather at the time included clouds, rain/snow, and low visibility.
According to records, Huber held a Private Pilot license for single engine airplanes and did not hold an instrument rating.
Investigators are looking at weather as a likely factor in the cause of the crash. Fog and inclement weather prevented rescuers from reaching the remote crash site until the next day, when they confirmed the two occupants did not survive.
The search unfolded when the National Alarm Center received an ELT (Emergency Locator Transmitter) signal from the crash site, which was along the route proposed by the Huber aircraft. All light aircraft are equipped with a battery-powered ELT that is activated upon an impact and then sends an emergency signal transmitted on 121.5 MHZ where it is satellite transferred to a tracking station.
Major Ed. O’Brien of the Civil Air Patrol reported that coordinates were supplied and Civil Air Patrol personnel activated for a search. The Civil Air Patrol is a volunteer air search group that is the only organization that is called to search for downed civilian aircraft.
O’Brien said searchers first located a wreckage nearby that was four or five years old, but then located the actual site and coordinated ground crews to the new crash location. It is not uncommon for remote crash sites to be left where they are because removal in remote areas is not feasible.
Huerfano County Coroner Della Duran did not release any pending mortuary arrangements or additional personal information on the crash victims. The crash will remain under investigation by federal authorities and a case outcome including the final cause of the accident will not be published for several months.