Plane crash kills 3 men near Vega
Three people, including a veteran local pilot, mechanic and business owner, were killed when a single-engine airplane crashed Thursday east of Collbran while federal authorities Friday started piecing together what happened.
Monument Aircraft Services owner Dana Brewer, 49, of Clifton, piloted the airplane and authorities said his passengers were William Kennon, 47, of Collbran, and Richard “Jim” Platz, 47, of Fruita. Brewer departed Mack Mesa Airport around 11 a.m. with the men to check up on cattle on Grand Mesa, authorities said.
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer said the crash was believed to have happened around 1 p.m. Thursday, which was when air traffic controllers at Denver Center in Longmont lost contact with the airplane.
Local and federal officials said the airplane was reported overdue to the Grand Junction Regional Communications Center around 7:30 p.m. Search efforts — the Civil Air Patrol, the Gypsum-based High Altitude Army National Guard Training Center and Mesa County search and rescue personnel were either notified or mobilized — ended when the crash site was spotted from the air around 11:40 p.m., near the Porter Creek area approximately 12 miles east of Collbran.
The deaths were confirmed when searchers reached the site around 12:30 a.m., slogging through remote terrain accessible only by snowmobile.
While the sheriff’s office said the trio intended to be in the area of Grand Mesa, the flight’s exact route wasn’t known.
The National Transportation Safety Board is heading up the investigation, assisted by FAA. A cause wasn’t immediately known.
Brewer’s wife, Becky, said she got a call to come down to the sheriff’s office around 1 a.m. Friday, several hours after she learned from her son that her husband’s airplane was overdue but sending out a transponder signal. She said she feared for hours he’d crashed.
Rescuers speculated the plane might have gone into a nose dive, possibly because of icy wings, Becky Brewer said.
“He was a great pilot and I never worried about his flying,” she said.
Brewer was looking to sell the plane that crashed on Thursday because it was “real expensive on fuel,” and was in the process of obtaining his “taildragger” license. That’s an airplane with a tail wheel. FAA records show Dana Brewer held a single-engine private pilot license issued in 2003 and had mechanic certification.
Dana Brewer was flying nearly every day, mostly on work-related trips, Becky Brewer said. A mechanic, he regularly serviced airplanes from Grand Junction to Aspen, flying them to and from Monument Aircraft Services’ facilities in Mack, she said.
Interviewed in a March 2012 Daily Sentinel story detailing the controversy surrounding the $4.3 million fence project at Grand Junction Regional Airport, Brewer told the newspaper he moved his aircraft repair business to the Mack Mesa Airport because he didn’t want to deal with escorting clients to and from the gates to his former hangar at the Grand Junction airport.
When he wasn’t flying, Dana Brewer was enjoying the outdoors on numerous hunting or camping trips and was strong in his Christian faith, according to friend Bill Alderman of Fruita.
“He was a man of God,” Alderman said. “When I had certain challenges in life, Dana would come up with a perspective and always had good answers. God blessed him a bunch.”
Brewer was known for his love of disc golf, while the sixth hole at the Riverbend Park disc course bears his company’s name.
“This valley’s lost a real good person and if you met him, you know what I’m talking about. If you didn’t, you missed out,” Alderman said.
A spokesperson for Kennon’s family late Friday released a statement saying he was loved by many.
“He loved ranching, it was his life. He was known as quite a character, a fun guy, and a good man. We will miss him deeply.”