Sunday, January 25, 2015

Cessna 172F Skyhawk, N8368U: Accident occurred January 25, 2015 in Routt County, Colorado

NTSB Identification: CEN15LA122 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, January 25, 2015 in Routt County, CO
Aircraft: CESSNA 172F, registration: N8368U
Injuries: 1 Serious.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On January 25, 2015, about 1100 mountain standard time, a Cessna 172F airplane, N8368U, impacted terrain in the Routt National Forest, Colorado. The private pilot was seriously injured and the airplane was substantially damaged. The airplane was registered to and operated by a private individual under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the cross country flight. 

The airplane impacted sparely wooded, mountainous terrain at an approximate elevation of 10,000 feet. Both wings were crushed and impact damaged. The fuselage was crushed and distorted. The empennage separated from the aft cabin but remain attached to the airplane via control cables. The right elevator was crushed. The airplane has been retained for further examination.

At 1115, an automated weather reporting facility at the Steamboat Springs Airport (KSBS), located 16 nautical miles to the northwest of the accident site, reported wind from 080 degrees at 4 knots, visibility 10 miles, an overcast ceiling at 2,500 feet above ground level, temperature 32° Fahrenheit (F), dew point 23° F, and altimeter setting of 30.40 inches of mercury.

 FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Denver FSDO-03


The pilot who crashed his single-engine airplane near Rabbit Ears Pass on Sunday survived by calling his family and 9-1-1 shortly after the crash, starting a fire and waiting for rescuers, who arrived at the remote scene less than four hours after the accident. 

The crash occurred just after 11 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 25, approximately 6 miles south-southwest of Rabbit Ears Pass just over the Grand County line in Routt County, said Grand County Search and Rescue public information officer Greg Foley.

Eleven members of GCSAR, an equal number from Routt County Search and Rescue and members of Grand County EMS responded to the scene.

Mark Darling of Eaton was en route from Baggs, Wyo., to Loveland when the crash occurred, Foley said. It is not clear whether he had landed in Steamboat Springs, he added. The cause of the crash is under investigation.

Darling was the sole occupant of the plane, and he managed to get himself out of the tangled wreckage and start a fire after calling for help, Foley said.

He said there were low clouds in the area at the time of the crash and temperatures were in the mid-30s Sunday afternoon on top of Rabbit Ears Pass. The plane is a single-engine, high-wing Cessna.

The injured pilot was extracted from the crash site in a sled pulled by snowmobile for eight miles back to the staging area at the Muddy Pass Trailhead on US Highway 40 and loaded onto a Classic Air Medical helicopter for transport to a Front Range hospital, Foley said.

According to the Steamboat Pilot, Darling is a former Steamboat Springs resident. The newspaper reported Monday morning that he was in fair condition at Denver Health Center.

Foley said searchers were able to use snowmobile trails in the area to get most of the way to the crash site

“We could get pretty close to the guy on one of those groomed trails up there,” he said.

Three people died in another small plane crash near this crash site in July 2003, according to a Steamboat Pilot article. The wreckage of that plane was airlifted out of the Sarvis Creek Wilderness, according to the newspaper.

Foley said this crash was close to but not in the wilderness area.

The location poses problems for searchers not only because of deep snow and challenging terrain, but also because of its location near the sinuous county line, which can cause jurisdictional issues.

“We’re never sure what county it’s in,” Foley said of calls from that area. “You dial 9-1-1 up there, you don’t know where it’s going to go.”

Routt and Grand counties have an agreement about responding to incidents in the area, he said, because Routt authorities generally can get there in about half the time. In this case, it was a Routt County-led operation with the crash site in Routt County but the staging area in Grand County, Foley said.

Rob McClure
 Sky-Hi News 
Members of Grand County Search and Rescue, Routt County Search and Rescue and Grand County EMS extract the victim of a small plane crash via snowmobile near Rabbit Ears Pass on Sunday and take him to a waiting ambulance. He was then placed aboard a medical helicopter and transported to a Front Range hospital. His injuries were not thought to be life-threatening.

ROUTT COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – A pilot is lucky to be alive after crashing the plane he was flying in a remote part of a high country forest.

  The crash happened south of Highway 40 on the east side of Rabbit Ears Pass Sunday morning.

According to Grand County Director of Emergency Management Ray Jennings, the pilot, identified as Mark Darling from Eaton, contacted a family member by phone after the plane crashed and said he was badly injured.

More than 20 search and rescue personnel on 18 snowmobiles entered the Routt Forest.

“When we went in we were able to get a large part of the team to the end of the road, and two of our expert riders went from there to the site of the crash,” Darrel Livingston with Grand County Search and Rescue said. “It did take them a while to find the place.”

Darling complained of several injuries but none appeared to be life threatening. He was the only person on board the plane.

“They did check him out at that point and he was in great shape; a little cold. They were able to put him on a snowmobile and bring him to the end of the road,” Livingston said.

By the time the pilot was brought back to the search and rescue command center he was in pain and very cold. He had built a fire to stay warm waiting for rescue.

“We didn’t really have any idea of the condition he was in until they got there, but just assuming it’s a plane crash we always expect the worst,” Livingston said.

Darling was then put back in the air again and transported by helicopter to a hospital in the Front Range.

Darling reportedly told some of the first responders that he had survived a previous crash.

Rescuers told CBS4 the crash was an area they call the Triangle where there have been several crashes over the past few years. The most recent was in August in which the pilot and a passenger were both killed.

Story, photo and video:

Steamboat Springs — A single-engine airplane crashed at just after 11 a.m. Sunday south of the summit of Rabbit Ears Pass, according to Routt County Search and Rescue president and incident commander Chad Bowdre.

The Routt County Sheriff's Office identified the pilot as Mark Darling, of Eaton. He was the only person on board the plane, and according to Bowdre, Darling was in fair condition after being transported by helicopter to Denver Health Center.

Darling is a former Steamboat Springs resident and his ex-wife still lives in the Steamboat area.

The Cessna 172F high-wing airplane crashed on the top of Green Creek between Sarvis Creek and Harrison Creek, two drainages south of Rabbit Ears Pass. Darling was able to use his cellphone to report the crash, and other planes in the area also picked up signals from the Cessna’s emergency locator transmitter, Bowdre said.

Eight members of Routt County Search and Rescue rode snowmobiles into the remote crash site to rescue Darling, who was able to get himself out of the airplane wreckage and start a fire to keep warm before help arrived.

Both Grand County and Routt County Search and Rescues and Sheriff’s Offices responded to the report of the downed plane, and a command center was established in the Muddy Pass parking lot off of U.S. Highway 40.

At 3:20 p.m., Darling was located and assessed for transport, Bowdre said. A helicopter from Classic Air Medical also flew to the scene to assist.

Darling had taken off from Baggs, Wyoming, and was headed to the Front Range via Steamboat Springs when he crashed. According to Bowdre, the pilot houses his plane in Greeley.

The cause of the plane crash is under investigation.

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