Airport crash investigation ongoing

Plane heavily damaged after rollover in Steamboat Springs

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An official decision on what caused an airplane to skid off the runway at the Steamboat Springs Airport on Feb. 15 may be a month away, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

A five-member board ultimately will make a ruling about the accident, and the investigation still is ongoing, NTSB Senior Air Safety Investigator Arnold Scott said.

Scott identified the pilot as Denver resident Frank Semple, and the three passengers as Semple's wife and two teenage daughters. Semple did not return calls for comment Wednesday, though Scott said NTSB investigators have been in touch with him.

"The pilot said he came in for a landing, and he thought he hit a patch of ice," Scott said.

The plane turned sideways, and the pilot attempted an emergency take-off for another shot at the landing, but the single-engine Cirrus SR22's landing gear clipped a snow berm, causing the plane to overturn, Scott said.

The plane crashed at Steamboat Springs Airport about an hour after it departed from Englewood's Centennial Airport, at about 10:15 a.m. Feb. 15, according to the NTSB's preliminary report.

The aircraft was heavily damaged, Steamboat Springs Airport Manager Mel Baker said. The plane's vertical stabilizer was "torn off," and the horizontal stabilizer was "buckled," according to the NTSB report.

"It appears to me that it's totaled," Baker said. "The people were pretty fortunate."

The plane also sprung a fuel leak in the crash, which contributed to a nearly 6-hour airport closure that followed.

An NTSB investigator and a representative from aircraft manufacturer Cirrus Design Corporation flew in from Washington, D.C., last week, and spent two days on the field, Baker said.

"They were very interested in the aircraft itself and the damage to the aircraft, and how the occupants were protected," Baker said, noting that the SR22 is a newer aircraft and that its airbags deployed in the accident.

Semple's wife came out of the crash with only a nosebleed, and none of the plane's other three occupants were injured, Baker said.

A local pilot who owns a hangar at the airport donated space for the NTSB to do the investigation indoors, since the city doesn't own a hangar large enough to accommodate the Cirrus SR22, Baker said.

"They took some things apart," Baker said. "They don't really share with me what they're looking for. They asked a lot of questions, but rarely do they tell you what the purpose of those questions is. They're tight-lipped, and they should be until they get the information together."

The Federal Aviation Administration's Flight Standards Service also will take its own look at the crash, and insurance representatives did their review last weekend, Baker said.

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