Passengers escape plane crash

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— A Steamboat Springs pilot, nurse and paramedic walked away from a plane crash Wednesday night with minor injuries.

The Yampa Valley Air Ambulance plane crashed on a mountain two miles southeast of Kremmling.

The twin-engine King Air E90 was en route from Grand Junction to the Steamboat Springs Airport when it was diverted to the Kremmling Airport to pick up a snowboarder injured at the Winter Park Ski Area.

There was no patient on board.

The plane slid to a stop in 12 to 18 inches of snow on Junction Butte, Grand County Undersheriff Glen Trainor said.

Had the impact occurred about 20 feet lower, the plane would have rammed into the side of the mountain.

"They were very fortunate," Trainor said.

The flight crew safely exited the aircraft through a door and walked away from the wreckage.

One of the crew members used a cell phone to call 911 shortly after the plane went down around 7:30 p.m. and told a Grand County dispatcher the group was not hurt aside from a few minor cuts and bruises.

About six to eight members of Grand County Search and Rescue responded to the crash site on snowmobiles, Trainor said. It took about 30 minutes to reach the passengers.

Weather did not hamper the rescue. There was no snow falling at the crash site and the skies were clear.

Rescuers completed their mission in about two hours.

The pilot and nurse were taken to Yampa Valley Medical Center, where they were treated and released. The pilot sustained a minor injury and the nurse suffered minor injuries and a compression spine fracture. The paramedic did not require medical care.

The Grand County Sheriff's Office and hospital would not release the names of the passengers.

"We are just very grateful that the crew is safe," said Cindy Maddox, co-owner of Mountain Flight Service, the company that leases the plane and staffs a pilot to Yampa Valley Medical Center for emergency patient transports.

The hospital has temporarily suspended the Yampa Valley Air Ambulance because of extensive damage to the plane.

"We anticipate that it probably will be a total loss," Maddox said of the damaged aircraft. Other air ambulance services in Colorado will provide emergency transports in the meantime.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash.

"We're not certain of the specifics of what happened," she said.

Yampa Valley Medical Center works cooperatively with Mountain Flight Service to fly patients who require further medical care than what is available locally to other hospitals in cities such as Denver, Grand Junction and Ft. Collins. Yampa Valley Air Ambulance flew 136 flights in 2002.

One flight nurse and one flight medic accompany all patients who fly out of the Steamboat Springs Airport on the plane, which is specially equipped for medical emergencies.

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