Steamboat Springs A Steamboat Springs couple died Monday when their single-engine plane crashed about 10 miles west of the runway at Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden.
Joseph and Suzette Brumleve were found dead at the scene, the Moffat County Sheriff's Office confirmed late Monday night. The cause of the crash won't be determined until the National Transportation Safety Board completes its investigation. An NTSB investigator is expected to arrive in the area Tuesday.
Routt County Search and Rescue personnel discovered the plane, a 1986 Piper PA-46 Malibu, at about 4:45 p.m. on farmland about 2 ½ miles northwest of Elkhead Reservoir. The wreckage was close to Moffat County Road 178.
Moffat County Sheriff's Office Lt. K.C. Hume described the topography of the crash site as rolling agricultural land. There was about 6 inches of snow around the wreckage, he said.
The fixed-wing, six-passenger plane was inbound from Hutchinson, Kan., where it departed at 9:13 a.m. Mountain Standard Time. According to FlightAware, a Web-based flight tracking service for commercial and private aircraft, the plane was due to arrive at Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden at 12:46 p.m.
Joe Brumleve radioed in shortly before noon to say he was having trouble with the plane's landing gear, but he quickly reported that everything was OK, Routt County Search and Rescue Incident Commander Dawn Alperti said. However, the plane never arrived at the airport about 22 miles west of Steamboat Springs.
Search and Rescue was paged just before 1 p.m., and rescue trucks were dispatched just before 2 p.m. The searchers were not certain what type of terrain they would encounter and were equipped with snowmobiles, four-wheelers, snowshoes and skis.
Moderate to heavy snow fell throughout the day in much of Northwest Colorado. Alperti said emergency crews encountered limited visibility when searching the area where the plane was eventually discovered.
Searchers used handheld Emergency Locator Transmitter devices to home in on the plane's location. Air traffic controllers and passing aircraft had detected signals from the downed plane's ELT, indicating that it was between 3 and 10 miles from the runway at Yampa Valley Regional Airport.
Search and Rescue personnel superimposed the plane's radar track on an image of the area using Google Earth.
"He did a fly-by of the runway and was in a right turn to get on a heading for the runway when about three-quarters of the way through the turn he made an unexpected left bank," Search and Rescue member Ty Upson said.
The aircraft disappeared from radar in Grand Junction at that point. The computer imagery being used by Search and Rescue showed the plane skirting a drainage area on the edge of a field before it made a couple of erratic turns to the north in the direction of a butte. The radar track also indicated the aircraft descended abruptly from 8,000 feet.
After locating the aircraft and finding no survivors, Routt County Search and Rescue turned over recovery efforts to the Moffat County Sheriff's Office. Those efforts were completed by about 8:30 p.m. Monday.
Hume said there was no indication of a fire at the crash site. The plane's wreckage was "fairly well-confined to a specific area," he said.
The Brumleves have three daughters, Corrin Stine, Holly James and Heidi Brumleve; and two grandchildren. All live in the area.
"It's tragic circumstances for the family," Hume said, "particularly at this time of year."
In an article in the Dec. 15 Steamboat Today, Joe Brumleve was described as laughing as he played with his 8-year-old grandson at Saddleback Ranch's Cowboy Christmas party. The two enjoyed a horse-drawn sleigh ride and tubing during the annual Routt County event.
Joe and Suzette Brumleve also were reported to be two members of the investment group led by Tim and Diane Mueller that attempted to purchase the Steamboat Ski Area from American Skiing Co. in 2002.