Mormon bishop killed in Eagle County crash
Eagle County, CO Colroado
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado “-The body of a man whose Cessna 182 crashed Tuesday was recovered near Lake Josephine in Eagle County, Colorado wilderness Thursday morning.
The Associated Press identified the man as 51-year-old Michael Loveless of Price, Utah. The well-known businessman and Mormon bishop was found in the single-engine plane and extricated by the Western Eagle County Search and Rescue Team.
Colleen Loveless, of Price, told The Associated Press Michael Loveless was her husband and was killed in the crash.
Loveless, the only one in the plane, was located Wednesday but never taken from the site as initially reported by the Associated Press.
Loveless left Tuesday around 2:30 p.m. from Rocky Mountain Airport in Jefferson County headed for Aspen, according to Eagle County Sheriff’s Office Spokeswoman Shannon Cordingly. The plane was last detected on radar about 45 minutes later.
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Crews from Vail Mountain Rescue Group and Western Eagle County Search and Rescue set out early Wednesday in search of the man, but called off the ground search later in the day due to weather.
Vail Mountain Rescue’s Director of Operations Tim Cochrane said his crew battled high winds and 12 to 18 inches of snow trying to locate the plane, but made no progress and backed down sometime around 11 a.m. along with about four helicopters that were searching.
“It was very, very windy. Terrible conditions for the helicopter to see in,” Cochrane said.
Shortly after calling off the ground search, Cochrane was notified that a National Guard helicopter spotted the wreckage not even a half-hour after later.
“These guys are the pros,” he said. “They got the coordinates and landed within 10 to 15 feet of the plane.”
The co-pilot got out of the helicopter, which was half-hovering, half-resting on one skid in 60 mph winds, Cochrane said, and determined there would be now way the pilot could’ve survived.
Because National Guard isn’t allowed to retrieve a body once they locate it, Cochrane’s team was given permission to contract a helicopter from Rifle to bring them back up the mountain to get the body. But the weather at that point was too dangerous, Cochrane said, and they decided they’d try and pull out the body Thursday if the weather let up.
The weather did let up and western Eagle County search team pulled Loveless’ body out of the Cessna Thursday morning.
“We were very fortunate we had a good window of weather and the guys at Western Eagle County were ready to go,” Cochrane said.
Rocky Mountain News reported that Loveless was well-known in Price as owner of a vacuum company, Loveless Ash, that specialized in cleaning out wood-burning stoves. He was also bishop for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the College of Eastern Utah.
“He was just a great guy,” Brad King, vice president at the college, told the Rocky Mountain News. “Yesterday was a very difficult day on campus. The news really upset the students. We’ve alerted our counseling center, and the LDS church has resources across the street. It was a tragedy that affected many people.”
Despite the tragedy of the situation, Cochrane said it could’ve been harder for the family if Loveless’ body hadn’t been found and identified quickly, which is always a possibility in the mountains.
“The worst thing that could’ve happened is you have the crash and you can’t get good weather. Then all of a sudden you’ve got 100 feet of snow and it’s July,” he said. “Nobody wants that.”
The cause of the crash is still unknown. Representatives from the National Transportation Safety Board, which is the lead agency on investigations, could not be reached for comment.
Dustin Racioppi can be reached at (970)748-2936 or firstname.lastname@example.org.