Hayden plane crash investigation ongoing as family continues recovery
February 21, 2012
Steamboat Springs — Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday morning concluded their on-site inspection of the plane that crashed Sunday at Yampa Valley Regional Airport, killing two people. The investigation will continue next week after the plane is transported to a hangar on the Front Range.
Airport Manager Dave Ruppel said a team of investigators from the NTSB, the Federal Aviation Administration, Cessna and Continental, which manufactured the plane's engine, spent Monday and Tuesday taking photos and measurements at the crash site in an effort to determine what caused the Cessna 414A to crash short of YVRA's runway, killing pilot Hans Vandervlugt and passenger Gaby Humpal.
Airport officials reported the private plane crashed as it attempted to land in a heavy snowstorm with zero visibility.
Messages left with the lead NTSB investigator who traveled to Hayden were not returned Monday or Tuesday.
Sara Humpal, 10, the youngest survivor of Sunday's plane crash, remained in serious condition at Children's Hospital Colorado in Aurora on Tuesday evening.
Her father, Scott Humpal, and her brothers Tad, 18, and Dillon, 13, also survived the crash and were released from Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs at about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday after they were treated for injuries ranging from broken bones to cervical instability. The family was traveling to Aurora on Tuesday night to be with Sara, family and friends reported.
Vandervlugt, 75, was flying Scott and Gaby Humpal and their three children from Corpus Christi, Texas, to Steamboat for a ski vacation when the Cessna 414A crashed 30 to 40 yards short of the runway at YVRA.
Russell Hanks, a friend of the Humpal family who works at one of the physical therapy clinics Scott Humpal owns in Corpus Christi, reported Sara was able to move her arms and legs after she had procedures at YVMC to reinflate collapsed lungs and fix fractures to her legs. He said that the boys were recovering well and that Sara had another surgery Tuesday morning to treat a compartment syndrome in her leg. He added that a procedure doctors initially planned to fix a fracture in her T6 vertebrae was not performed Tuesday afternoon and may be unnecessary.
"She still has some lung issues they are trying to correct," he said. "Last I heard, she was stable."
A devoted mother
Family and friends of Gaby Humpal, 44, said Tuesday that she always will be remembered as a loving mother.
"Gaby hated for you to ring the doorbell. She would just expect for you to come in, and she would always greet you with a warm hug and a smile," said Michelle Braselton, who met the Humpals through a couples Bible study group Gaby started with fellow worshippers at the Bay Area Fellowship in Corpus Christi. "She was very warm and hospitable."
Braselton said Gaby met Scott Humpal while living in Monterrey, Mexico, and was a strong Christian woman devoted to all of her children's endeavors. She added that Gaby loved to entertain.
Robert Vasquez, Gaby's brother-in-law, said she was an avid tennis player and jogger, but most importantly, she always put her children first.
"She was a striking woman with a beautiful character, and she was very, very lovable," he said. "She was a devoted mother and wife, and she lived her life for her children."
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com