RBC I The crash of single-engine airplane claimed the life of a 62-year-old Tabernash, Colo., man on Thursday in Rio Blanco County, approximately 15 miles west of Meeker.
At approximately 6 p.m. on Jan. 14, the Rio Blanco County Communications Center in Meeker received a report of a possible airplane crash near Meeker. The reporting party stated that he heard a plane rev its engines, that it banked twice at a high altitude and then he heard an explosion, a sheriff’s office press release issued Friday morning stated.
According to the release, the communication center contacted Denver Center Traffic Control, and they reported that the aircraft disappeared off the radar. The communications center was given the coordinates of the last reported location of the plane, which was reported to be a Bonanza 35 single-engine aircraft with a maximum capacity of four to six persons.
The aircraft reportedly left Salt Lake City, Utah, and was piloted by William Ray Hiler, 62, of Tabernash, Colo., who was en route to Granby, Colo., with an unknown number of persons on board.
Members of the Rio Blanco County Sheriff’s Office and Rio Blanco County Search and Rescue conducted a search of areas provided by the National Radar Analysis Team. Several small items, the plane’s wing, part of the propeller and one tire were subsequently located within the given one-half-mile search area.
The search resumed at 7 a.m. Friday for the remainder of the aircraft. At approximately 10:33 a.m., the fuselage, more aircraft parts and what appeared to be one set of human remains were found within the primary search area. The body was found still inside the fuselage.
At approximately 10:51 a.m., the RBCSO contacted the National Transportation Safety Board duty officer, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Rio Blanco County Coroner’s Office. The scene was secured by the the Rio Blanco County Sheriff’s Office, which was awaiting the arrival of the National Safety Transportation Board (NTSB).
On Saturday, RBCSO Undersheriff Brice Glasscock, who is also the sheriff’s public information officer, reported that Sheriff Anthony Mazzola, Coroner Albert Krueger, Rio Blanco Search and Rescue, Meeker Fire and Rescue and the White River Snowmobile Club returned to the search area.
One body was recovered from the wreckage by members of the coroner’s office and the body was transported to Grand Junction for an autopsy, which was performed on Monday.
The plane wreck was removed from the scene by the NTSB with aid provided by the above agencies.
Glasscock said the airport in Provo confirmed that there was only one person on board the plane when Hiler stopped there to refuel, and belongings on the body led to Hiler’s family, which confirmed that the victim most likely was Hiler—although Krueger will continue to forensically confirm the identity.
Glasscock also reported that although the different parts of the plane were scattered, they were all within a quarter-mile of where the body and fuselage were located.
NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway said Monday that the fuselage and other parts that were retrieved will be taken to one of the closest secure hangars to be examined. There, he said, inspectors will come up with a preliminary report of their findings, which could come in the next week or so.
He said the official NTSB report and the determined cause of the crash is likely to take between 12 and 18 months.