Pilot survives State Bridge plane crash | VailDaily.com

Pilot survives State Bridge plane crash

Steve Lynn
Vail, CO Colorado
Preston Utley/Vail DailyA vintage World War II plane crashed near State Bridge earlier today. After the crash, the pilot, who took off from Centennial Airport, climbed from the wreckage and found a rancher who notified the authorities.

STATE BRIDGE, Colorado ” A small plane crashed Monday on a ranch 10 miles north of Wolcott and a few miles southeast of State Bridge in Eagle County.

The pilot, John Zayac, 48, of Englewood, had minor injuries and was able to walk away from the crash, the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office said. There were no passengers in the plane.

The single-engine North American T-6 World War II-era plane went down just after 11 a.m. this morning.

Zayac was flying from Centennial Airport to Reno, Nev., where he planned to sell the $175,000 plane, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

After the crash, Zayac called police dispatch from the ranch explaining he had crashed and that he was fine. Zayac was wearing a seat belt with several straps, said Shannon Cordingly, spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Office.

Zayac crashed in a ravine on Jim Olsen’s 2,800 Olsen Piney Ranch, where Olsen raises hay and leases his land for cattle grazing. Listening to the radio in his home at the time, Olsen did not see or hear the crash. He thought Zayac worked for an electrical company when he saw Zayac walking toward his home.

Zayac was “surprisingly calm” after the crash, Olsen said.

“All the sudden he tells me he crashed a plane,” Olsen said.

The men walked a couple hundred yards to the plane and gathered some of Zayac’s belongings, Olsen said. The battered plane’s yellow wings were lying next to it and dozens of parts and paint chips were strewn about the grass Monday afternoon. Authorities planned to remove the plane.

“When you see the plane it’s hard to figure out how he came out of it alive,” Olsen said.

Zayac started having some mechanical problems with the plane and crashed it a half-mile later, said Deputy Mark Linn of the Sheriff’s Office. The plane “cartwheeled” once before it ended up in the ravine, Linn said.

Zayac had “a few minor abrasions,” the Sheriff’s Office said. Zayac was taken in an ambulance to Vail Valley Medical Center, but a spokesman for the hospital did not give an update on Zayac’s condition Tuesday afternoon.

State Bridge is at the intersection of Highway 131 and the Colorado River, about 20 miles northwest of Vail.

The cause of the crash was unknown and The Federal Aviation Administration will investigate, Cordingly said.

Staff Writer Steve Lynn can be reached at 748-2931 or slynn@vaildaily.com.

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