Friends and family members who knew William "Bill" Rooney Jr.'s careful nature cannot understand the plane crash that killed him and his son, William Patrick Rooney III, on Sunday morning.
The men intended to leave Steamboat Springs on Saturday, but after learning about strong Santa Ana winds near their destination in Southern California, the two decided to wait another day before flying home, said Sean Rooney, the second of Bill and Debi Rooney's three sons. Patrick Rooney, 26, was the eldest.
The plane, a Pilatus PC-12, took off in heavy snow Sunday morning from Yampa Valley Regional Airport, headed west. It appears the plane attempted to return to the airport before crashing in a field 1 mile north of the runway at about 10 a.m.
"They were extremely cautious men, both of them," Sean Rooney said. "It's so hard to fathom because they definitely wouldn't do anything to put their lives in jeopardy or leave us like this."
Before they took off, Patrick Rooney called his wife, Erynn Rooney, to tell her they were headed home, Sean Rooney said. Patrick told her it was snowing heavily, but they had no concerns about taking off. Bill Rooney had flown in snowy conditions many times before, Sean Rooney said.
Sean Rooney said his dad was careful in everything he did - and everything he allowed his sons to do.
"With my dad, it started long, long ago when he wouldn't let us get skateboards : or do any extreme sports. He was so scared about us getting hurt," Sean Rooney said.
Bill Rooney, 54, had six to seven years of flying experience, including flights from their home in Yorba Linda, Calif., to Florida, Alaska, Vermont and in recent months more than one trip a month to Steamboat Springs, where Bill and Debi owned a home and a condo.
Sean Rooney plays minor league baseball and said his dad often would use the plane to travel across the country to watch games. He said his dad also planned to fly to youngest son Colin's games with Pepperdine University this year.
The family began vacationing in Steamboat about 10 years ago when they first began hunting on the land of a family friend near Hayden.
About six years ago, the hunt turned into an annual "boy's hunt" when Bill Rooney and his three sons would come for September deer and elk bow hunting.
The Rooneys own a condo in The Phoenix complex, along with a ranch in the Big Valley area.
In recent months, Bill Rooney had been traveling to Steamboat to oversee the renovation of a barn on their ranch. The barn is to be used for Sean Rooney's wedding reception, planned for September.
Patrick Rooney is survived by his 1-year-old son, William Rooney IV, and his wife, who is seven months pregnant.
Sean Rooney said both men were devoted husbands and very close with their family.
"They were both incredible men and husbands. They were a piece of chain that kept this family together, not to say it's going to fall apart. We definitely are going to fill in that chain because it's an extremely strong family," he said.
Bill Rooney owned a commercial contracting business, and Patrick Rooney worked as a construction contractor in the family business.
An investigator from the National Transportation Safety Board was on scene at about 7 a.m. Monday, YVRA Manager Dave Ruppel said.
David Bowling, regional director of the NTSB's Central Mountain Regional Office in Denver, said an investigator from Arlington, Texas, will handle the incident. Initial reports show the plane was in a turn to the east when a high-velocity crash occurred. It is not yet clear why the plane was in that area or traveling in that direction.
Ruppel said visibility Sunday morning was as low as three-quarters of a mile shortly before the Rooneys took off.
Sean Rooney said his brother had about 10 hours of flight training and many hours of co-pilot experience, so that even if his father was unable to pilot the plane, Patrick would have been able to take the controls.
Routt County Coroner Rob Ryg said the bodies will be taken for a standard autopsy Tuesday before being released to the family. There are not yet plans for a memorial service.
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