Plane crash still a mystery

Victims so badly burned no identifications can be made

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— The burned wreckage of Saturday's deadly small plan crash on Rabbit Ears Pass left little clue as to who the passengers were and why the plane crashed.

Routt County Sheriff John Warner said they have yet to identify the victims in the plane crash that left three dead and no survivors.

Warner said the bodies were so badly burn the sex could not be identified.

The only clue coming from the crash site was the engine number. Warner said they were running the engine number in attempts to identify the owners of the plane and who the victims might be.

At this point Warner said they do not even know if the plane landed or took off at the Steamboat Springs Airport. The plane was so badly burned the tail number, colors and even make could not be identified.

Warner believes the crash occurred around 11:15 a.m. Saturday from a watch on a victim that had stopped running. The county's communication report shows a call reporting an aircraft down at 11:13 a.m.

Jeff Koenig, a line technician at the airport, said he saw a plane take off that would have met the plane crash's description. The plane took off after 10:30 a.m. Saturday, he said, and had three passengers that had flown in from Fort Collins.

It was a Grumman model airplane and Koenig said the party did not say if it was returning to Fort Collins. No contact with the plane was made after it took off and no flight plans were filed.

Warner said they have no witnesses who saw the plane crash and the sheriff's office has been working with the National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration to track down any missing planes. So far no reports have been made, Warner said.

The plane crashed about 6.5 miles south of U.S. Highway 40 on Rabbit Ears Pass and less than 250 feet away from where a Piper Cherokee Saratoga went down Dec. 29, 2002. A 57-year-old woman died in that plane crash after being trapped in the plane for almost eight hours.

The two agencies are expected to arrive in Steamboat today to investigate the crash site.

Dwight Murphy of the Rout County Coroner's office said the three bodies have been transported to Jefferson County Coroners so an autopsy could be done. Murphy said the case is still under investigation and the cause and manner of death could not be released.

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