GYPSUM — Joe Schwan, of Gypsum, admits he doesn’t know much about small aircraft, but when he saw a private plane approaching the Eagle County Regional Airport at about 3 p.m. last Friday, he knew the pilot was in trouble.
Schwan was positioned on the far west portion of the Costco parking area when a 1964 Piper Comanche crashed just off the east side of the runway.
“I don’t know much about small planes, but I could tell he was coming in way too low,” said Schwan during a phone interview on Monday. “I saw the plane hit the hill and kick up a ton of dirt as soon as it hit. Then I called 911.”
Within minutes, emergency crews from Eagle County Airport Rescue and Fire Fighting, Gypsum Fire Protection District, Greater Eagle Fire Protection District, Eagle County Paramedic Services and Eagle County Sheriff’s Office responded to the incident.
According to Greg Phillips, aviation director at the airport, within 11 minutes of the crash the pilot and the single passenger on board were en route to Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs.
Injured in the accident were pilot Doug Brown, 54, and passenger Nicholas Carroll, 70, who is also a pilot as well as a flight instructor. Both men are from Solano Beach, Calif. The plane’s owner is Timothy Petrachek, of Encinadas, Calif.
Phillips said the two men had made a rental car reservation out of the Eagle airport, signaling the facility was their intended destination.
Brown and Carroll were both transferred to Denver Health on Sunday. Brown’s condition is listed as fair and Carroll’s condition is listed as serious.
There were several witnesses to the crash, who confirmed the plane appeared to come up short on its approach. The aircraft crashed about 750 feet from the runway. Airport operations were temporarily suspended while emergency personnel responded to the crash.
The Federal Aviation Administration has taken over the investigation of the crash and will release the official report regarding the cause of the accident.