Monday, February 01, 2021

Cessna 172L Skyhawk, N4376Q: Accident occurred January 31, 2021 in Rifle, Garfield County, Colorado

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.

The National Transportation Safety Board did not travel to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entities:  
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Salt Lake City, Utah
Textron; Wichita, Kansas
Lycoming; Denver, Colorado 

Location: Silt, CO 
Accident Number: CEN21LA119
Date & Time: January 31, 2021, 14:20 Local
Registration: N4376Q
Aircraft: Cessna 172 
Injuries: 3 Serious
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal

On January 31, 2021, about 1420 mountain standard time, a Cessna 172, N4376Q, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near Silt, Colorado. The pilot and two passengers sustained serious
injuries. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 personal flight.

The airplane had departed the Rifle airport (RIL) about 1400 for a local visual flight rules flight. According to a family member, the purpose of the flight was to take some friends’ children flying in the local area. During the accident flight, a minor child was in the right front seat and the mother was in the left rear seat. The family member stated that while expecting the airplane to return for landing, he received a call from the mother stating that they had crashed.

The main wreckage was located about 3 miles east of RIL in an area of rising terrain. The first piece of debris was located about 25 ft past a set of high-tension transmission wires that are estimated to be about 100ft tall and extended about 670 ft along a heading about 160°. About 75 ft past the initial piece of debris, the upper 2ft of vertical stabilizer and rudder was located. The initial ground scar was located about 475 ft beyond the transmission wires and consisted of a damaged tree and sheet metal consistent with the color of the airplane. The main wreckage came to rest inverted about 600 ft from the transmission wires. The wings separated from the fuselage at the lower lift strut attach points.

During a post-accident examination, flight control continuity was established to the ailerons, elevators and rudder and the flaps were found in the retracted position. Rotational continuity was established throughout the engine and valve train. All cylinders were inspected with a borescope with no anomalies noted.

A video recording device and GPS were located on-scene and are being examined for possible additional evidence. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Cessna
Registration: N4376Q
Model/Series: 172 
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None
Operator Designator Code:

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: VMC
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: K5SM,10604 ft msl 
Observation Time: 14:15 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 14 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: -2°C /-12°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: / ,
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility: 10 miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.43 inches Hg 
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Rifle, CO (KRIL)
Destination: Silt, CO

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Serious 
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 2 Serious 
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 3 Serious
Latitude, Longitude: 39.5198,-107.6667 (est)

GARFIELD COUNTY, Colorado (KDVR) — A plane carrying two adults and a girl crashed Sunday afternoon south of Silt, according to the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office.

After they were extracted from the downed plane, an adult male and female were both taken by helicopter to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, and the juvenile female was taken to Grand River Hospital in Rifle for stabilization then airlifted to Children’s Hospital in Denver.

The status of the plane’s passengers’ conditions is currently unknown.

Crews from Colorado River Fire Rescue responded to a report of a downed aircraft at around 2:32 p.m. on Sunday. The plane was located near Chair Bar Road. Garfield County Search and Rescue were notified and on scene by 3:50 p.m.

The rugged terrain in the area as well as ground conditions slowed the progress of the search and rescue team, according to the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office.


  1. That picture has to be after the extraction and fueselage cut up. I don't know how anyone could have survived those remains as shown otherwise. There is no structure left and that terrain looks nasty to get your seat thrown into from ejection.

    1. Looking at the N-marked section, you see the outline of the baggage door to the left and the stubs of window frames, but no visible distortion or buckling running aft. Would expect some distortion if inertia did the separating, so maybe that was sawed off.

      Can't make much sense of the rest of it.

  2. Accident site is 2-5 miles east of Rifle Garfield County Airport. Considering three survived, suggest a low and slow accident sequence. A wing strut can be seen with a crumbled fuselage. 

  3. Accident airplane and a Beech A35 both have lapsed registrations. Owner is certificated pilot and mechanic living locally. Maybe was a short spin around the patch that didn't go well.

  4. Airplane collided with high tension wires.

    According to someone with knowledge of the accident, the owner was not the pilot.

    1. Lots of wires by Chair Bar Road, coming and going from electrical switchyard. No obvious reason to be low enough to hit them, though.

  5. Wow, my first solo was in that plane in Oct of 1996 out of the Colorado Springs Airport.