Body found on Colorado peak may be missing Texas pilot
TELLURIDE, Colorado – Human remains found on a southwest Colorado mountain this week may be those of a Dallas pilot whose plane crashed three years ago, authorities say.
San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters said he believes the body is that of 27-year-old Mark Cochran, who was missing and presumed dead after the Sept. 15, 2006, crash on Wilson Peak.
The bodies of all three passengers were found within three days of the crash.
Deputies in a helicopter spotted the fourth body Tuesday while searching for Cochran. The body was taken to the San Miguel County coroner to confirm the identity.
“I’m 99.9 percent sure it’s him, but until I get the dental records, I can’t say,” Coroner Bob Dempsey said Wednesday.
Cochran and his passengers were aboard a 1965 Beech Debonair when it crashed about 30 feet below the summit of the 14,017-foot mountain.
The National Transportation Safety Board concluded in 2007 the plane went out of control in turbulence and high wind.
The passengers were identified as Brendan Culbert, 25, of Bellaire, Texas; James Flanagin, 25, of Houston; and Kristin Kirkley, 26, of Dallas.
Deputies believe Cochran’s body was buried by an avalanche triggered by the crash.
Deputies have been monitoring the area since the accident. They said a relatively light winter snow and quick summer melt may have exposed the body.
The team that retrieved the body also found additional bones, personal items and a door of the plane.
Authorities said the four were headed from Addison, Texas, to Telluride for a festival and had refueled in Taos, N.M.
Masters said his department has spent more than $10,000 on the three-year search. An insurance policy on the plane covered some of the cost, but the sheriff’s department paid for most of it.
“You can’t just leave people up there,” Masters said.