Aspen’s Bryan Sax dies in plane crash
ASPEN, Colorado ” Aspen native Bryan Sax, 37, died Saturday in a plane crash over the Florida Everglades.
Sax, a pilot, was believed to be aboard a twin-engine Piper PA-44 Seminole when it collided with a single-engine Cessna 172 about 25 miles west of Fort Lauderdale.
Both planes, which each had two people on board, were involved in training flights at the time of the crash, authorities said.
No survivors have been found, nor any bodies recovered, according to Veda Coleman-Wright, spokeswoman for the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.
Sax took off from Fort Lauderdale International Airport at about 3:30 p.m. on Saturday and was going to a practice area near Opa-locka Airport, said Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson Kathleen Bergen.
The Cessna, which took off from North Perry Airport in Hollywood, Fla., was reportedly flown by Stuart Brown, 27, an instructor with Pelican Flight Training, according to The Miami Herald.
It’s unclear how the planes collided. The last reported position of the planes was about eight miles west of Fort Lauderdale. About 12 hours later, the FAA was notified that the planes, operating under visual flight rules, were overdue from training flights, Bergen said. The two planes were not under air traffic control and had responsibilty for avoiding other airplanes in the airspace, she added.
At about 8 a.m. Sunday, the U.S. Coast Guard spotted three areas of debris, one of which was from the Piper and the other two from the Cessna. Rescue workers on Sunday were trying to reach the desolate crash site nearly three miles southwest of Everglades Holiday Park via airboats.
Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board were on the scene and the FAA was assisting in the investigation.
Eric Alleyne, aviation inspector for the NTSB, said at a press conference Sunday that crews will attempt to remove the wreckage this morning and reassemble the aircraft. “We need to get the aircraft to see what we are dealing with,” he told the Herald.
Gary Kraft co-owned Aspen Aero Flight, a flight school based at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport, with Sax. He said his business partner was training at Airline Transport Professionals flight school in multi-engine aircraft and receiving advanced certification.
Sax loved to fly and intently followed that passion in recent years.
“When he found something that he loved he ran with it,” Kraft said. “There are a lot of people who are going to miss his happy face.”
Sax played many roles in his short life: a national ski racing champion, a coach, a bartender at Jimmy’s American Restaurant and Bar in Aspen, co-owner of Saxy’s Cafe in Basalt and Boulder with his wife, Christy, and a father of three.
Sax is survived by his wife, Christy; their daughter, Zaya, 7; a stepson Dante Lizotte, 13; and a daughter from a previous marriage, Hannah, 13. He also is survived by his father, Don Sax, his mother, Marcia, and his sister, Rachel.
He also was a friend to countless people in the Roaring Fork Valley. Sax was described as a giving soul with a gregarious personality, who would do anything for anyone. Friends said they would rather have Sax looking out for them than anyone in the world.
“Having Bryan Sax watching your back is a God-send,” said Jimmy Yeager, owner of the bar where Sax worked for about eight years. “He was as good of a friend as I could hope for … he truly was an angel.”
Joshua Goldman, who grew up with Sax, agreed.
“What you saw is what you got with Bryan,” he said. “You could trust him … You knew he would have your back.”
Goldman added that his childhood friend was a determined individual.
“We all grew up together, ran in a pack, and he was the smartest of all of us. You just knew he was going to be successful,” Goldman said. “He ruled his life. He lived life to the fullest and he was going to do what he was going to do.”
As a competitive ski racer in his younger days, Sax might be best known locally for skiing in the grueling 24 Hours of Aspen, an all-day, all-night event on Aspen Mountain that forced racers to ski continuously from noon to noon. Their only rest was on the 14-minute gondola ride to the summit.
“He pushed it to the limit,” Goldman said. “Going extreme gave him joy.”
He also loved to make people laugh, especially behind the bar. Locals named him the “Best Bartender” in a 2005 Aspen Times contest. And it wasn’t just for his margaritas.
He was known for his muscular thighs, vibrant energy and his ability to make people smile, which usually was evoked by flashing his own.
“The only thing bigger than his thighs was his smile,” Yeager said. “He was the most positive, upbeat, energetic person. He spread it wherever he went.
“He was the constant host of life,” Yeager added. “He welcomed anyone who came into his life.”
One other activity Sax did big was showing his love and affection.
“His hugs would nearly break your back,” Goldman said.
Yeager noted that Sax was affectionately known by the Gay Ski Week crowd as “Yum Yum,” a term Sax embraced.
Yeager said he plans to close the Aspen restaurant and bar next Sunday for Sax’s memorial.
Goldman said Sax followed his passions all the way to his death.
“He was a great friend, and he meant a lot to a lot of people,” Goldman said. “He died doing something he loved to do and that he was passionate about, and for that it’s OK even though everyone is devastated.”
Like many, a customer at Jimmy’s heard the news Sunday and was mourning the loss of Sax.
“Why does the world take the best?” she asked.