Steamboat Springs The National Transportation Safety Board has determined the probable causes of both of the deadly plane crashes that occurred in Routt County last year.
The agency's investigations, which spanned several months, revealed that the crash at Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden likely was caused by snowy, adverse weather, and a student pilot in a more recent crash north of Milner was flying impaired by alcohol and marijuana.
Peter Landherr, 36, was flying alone from Glenwood Springs back home to Minnesota on Aug. 24, 2012, to help his ex-wife and children say goodbye to their dying dog, Schuck, when he crashed in a remote area northwest of Milner.
The wreckage of the Piper was discovered hours later by sheep herders.
In a report released last month, the NTSB determined Landherr's impairment from alcohol, marijuana and hypoxia, which occurs when not enough oxygen is getting to the brain, “adversely affected his ability to maintain control of the plane.”
“The amount of alcohol in the pilot's system would have significantly impaired the pilot's performance,” investigators wrote.
The report said an opened six-pack of beer was found in the cockpit within the pilot's reach.
Investigators said toxicological testing revealed Landherr likely was consuming the alcohol and smoking within one to two hours of the crash.
“Both of these intoxicants may have impaired his judgement and contributed to the pilot's decision to fly above 18,000 feet in an aircraft not equipped with oxygen,” investigators wrote. “The resulting hypoxia also impaired his ability to control the plane.”
Landherr was remembered by family as a devoted father of four with an adventurous spirit.
Icing a factor in Hayden airport crash
Landherr's crash was preceded here by a separate deadly crash at Yampa Valley Regional Airport that killed two people and seriously injured four.
Corpus Christi businessman Scott Humpal and his family were on their way to a ski vacation in Steamboat Springs on Feb. 19, 2012, when their private plane crashed short of the runway at YVRA during a snowstorm.
The accident killed the experienced pilot, Hans Vandervlugt, and Humpal's wife, Gaby.
In a report released in late May, the NTSB revealed the probable cause of the crash was “the pilot's inadvertent stall during a missed approach.”
Investigators added that the pilot was landing the Cessna 414A in weather that likely resulted in moderate icing of the airframe, but not all of the aircraft's anti-ice systems were turned on.
“Based on the GPS data and weather information, it is likely that the airframe collected ice during the descent and approach, which affected the airplane's performance and led to an aerodynamic stall during the climb,” investigators wrote.
Shortly after the crash, Airport Manager Dave Ruppel said a snow squall created zero visibility during the landing.
The crash seriously injured Scott Humpal and his three children.
In the year since the crash, Humpal launched a fundraising campaign to build a new sports complex in his wife's name.
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com
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