A sudden and strong gust of wind sent a private plane in the process of landing about 600 feet off the runway at Yampa Valley Regional Airport on Sunday afternoon, but the pilot and passengers all emerged safe.

Courtesy photo

A sudden and strong gust of wind sent a private plane in the process of landing about 600 feet off the runway at Yampa Valley Regional Airport on Sunday afternoon, but the pilot and passengers all emerged safe.

Passenger kept youth hockey players calm as plane skidded off runway Sunday at Yampa Valley Regional Airport

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— Dave Lorenzen, the Steamboat Springs pilot whose single-engine plane skidded off the runway at Yampa Valley Regional Airport on Sunday afternoon, said a strong gust of wind caught his aircraft at the moment between flight and landing.

“It was a very gusty wind that just blew me off the runway. It was a crosswind landing, and as soon as I got the wheel down, a gust pushed the nose from left to right (by) 20 degrees (off the axis of the runway),” Lorenzen said Monday morning. “At that point, there was no more correcting for it because I’m not airborne. My only control was the nose wheel."

Lorenzen and four passengers walked away from the mishap without injury. They were on their way home from a girls hockey tournament in Aspen.

Passenger Jeff Brown said everything seemed normal as the plane made its final approach to YVRA. But when things suddenly changed, his daughter, Jackie, and Lorenzen’s daughter, Renee, became fearful.

“We were right on the runway all the way (through the descent),” Brown said. “We were coming down slow, and we were right over it. Then the wind turned just like that.”

He said that before the plane touched down, it rose into the air, then came down sideways to the wind direction. That’s when the girls reacted in fear.

“The way the headphones work (in the aircraft cabin), you can hear everybody,” Brown said. “Susie Leeson (another adult passenger) was facing backward and could see Jackie, my daughter, had a real scared look on her face. She was screaming a little and crying. Susie was amazingly calm, saying, ‘You girls are going to be fine.’ She kept the girls as calm as she could.”

Brown said although the landing seemed to take awhile to unfold, he was not afraid for the most part.

“Maybe I should have been, but I never was really very scared,” he said. “There was nothing to really hit. I assumed we would be coming to a stop. I predicted that would happen, and it happened. We did hit a couple of wooden fence posts (one with each wing). That was the only time I was really scared.”

YVRA Manager Dave Ruppel told the Steamboat Today on Sunday that Lorenzen’s Beechcraft Bonanza is based at Steamboat Springs Airport, but the pilot chose to land in Hayden. Brown said it was the direction of the runway in Steamboat that caused Lorenzen to plan a landing at YVRA. The Steamboat airport, which is in more of a north-south direction, was indicating significant crosswinds. That contrasted to YVRA’s east-west runway, which was nearly in alignment with the westerly winds as they prepared for their flight.

Ruppel said Sunday that the wind during the day was generally blowing straight down the runway at a pretty high speed but there was a cross-angle gust every once in awhile. He added that light aircraft have more difficulty dealing with those circumstances than do heavier, commercial aircraft, for example.

“It was an unfortunate circumstance,” Lorenzen said. “I feel I did everything I could have to keep it as safe as possible. Thank goodness we missed the taxi light, or it would have crumpled our landing gear.”

Lorenzen said he has been a pilot for 30 years but is relatively new to the Bonanza.

The plane, which sustained significant damage, came to rest in a marshy area. Ruppel told the Routt County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday that Lorenzen was trying to make arrangements to have it removed once the National Transportation Safety Board is through with its investigation. NTSB officials had not arrived in Routt County as of late afternoon Monday.

Brown had recovered his poise sufficiently Sunday night to take part in a men’s hockey league championship game. His team won.

“I’ve always been incredibly lucky, and I guess I still am. I was just in a plane crash, and everybody walked away without a scratch,” Brown wrote on Facebook. He later added, “We won the cup back tonight. ... Not a lot of people in this world that were in a plane crash and won a championship the same night.”

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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