TELLURIDE, Colo. (CBS4) – The pilots of a plane that crashed at a closed runway at the Telluride Regional Airport say they knew the runway was closed but attempted the landing anyway.
The Hawker Beechjet with seven people on board crashed into an occupied snowplow last Wednesday at the airport.
“We assumed the worst and fortunately it turned out every well. It could have been a real disaster.” San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters said. “Considering we had seven on the aircraft and one person in the plow we could have easily had eight fatalities.”
San Miguel County sheriff investigators have wrapped up their report obtained by CBS4. Now the National Transportation Safety Board is handling the case. According to statements made by the pilots after the crash they were aware the airport was closed, but as they got closer they decided conditions had improved and landed. They did not radio ground control and were not aware an airport worker was cleaning snow from the runway.
“The gentleman in the plow definitely heard it, felt it … like a big explosion. It was a surprise to him, came in behind him and hit the plow,” Masters said.
CBS4’s Matt Kroschel talked to the worker by phone — he did not want to go on camera — but is thankful to be alive. The sheriff estimated the jet struck the snowplow from behind going at least 100 miles per hour.
“It’s surprising we’ve have had very few incidents over the years,” Master said.
The airport is now open and officials say they have removed all the snow that was on the runway causing those bad conditions.