Bodies of five people still in wrecked plane at Ridgway Reservoir

Authorities confirmed Monday that the bodies of five people killed in a plane crash at Ridgway Reservoir were still inside the plane wreckage situated at the bottom of an area approximately 60 to 70 feet deep.

Divers using sonar and video equipment showed the bodies were still inside the largely intact but heavily damaged Socata TBM700, which is upside-down and partially buried in 2 to 3 feet of silt on the reservoir bottom, Ouray County officials said at a Monday afternoon press conference.

“Unfortunately, because of the extensive damage to the plane, the deep water and the plane’s orientation, we cannot safely recover the victims until the plane is brought to shore,” Ouray County spokeswoman Marti Whitmore said.

A Greeley-based salvage team specializing in aircraft recovery was expected to arrive Wednesday to start work, which could stretch into Thursday, Whitmore said.

The Ouray County Coroner’s Office hasn’t released victim identities.

The single-engine plane TBM took off from Gadsden, Ala., and was headed to Montrose, about 25 miles north of the reservoir, when it crashed into the water at Ridgway State Park on Saturday. The flight stopped in Bartlesville, Okla., before continuing on to Montrose, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said. The cause of the crash isn’t yet known.

According to preliminary reports, the pilot reported that the plane was in a spin before losing communication, National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Eric Weiss said Monday. That’s consistent with an eyewitness account from a woman who was attending a wedding nearby when the plane crashed.

One witness, Bryan McClaskey, 27, of Grand Junction, was on a fishing boat Saturday with family at Ridgway Reservoir when they heard a plane’s engine struggling, “revving up and down.”

“It was spinning out of control ... in about 10 seconds (after he first spotted it) it hit the water,” McClaskey said.

McClaskey estimated they were about 800 yards away from the crash site and didn’t see it hit the water because their view was obstructed by a hillside. By the time their boat reached the area, the plane’s tail was sticking out of the water amid floating debris such as insulation, a bar of soap and a dark-colored baseball hat.

The smell of fuel or oil hung heavy, he said.

“It was a helpless feeling,” McClaskey said. “We didn’t really know what to do.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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