1 dead, 2 hurt in fiery Aspen plane crash described as 'ball of fire coming down the runway'

Celebrities tweet about witnessing crash

ASPEN, Colo. - One person died and two others were injured in a crash at the Aspen Airport Sunday afternoon.

Three people were on the plane, according to the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office.

A statement from the Sheriff’s Office said one passenger was killed, one person had major injuries and the third has minor injuries. The plane crashed at 12:23 p.m., according to sheriff's office. 

"First responders from the Aircraft Rescue Firefighting Team were able to extinguish the flames in minutes," a release from the sheriff's office stated.

The man who died was identified as the co-pilot, Sergio Emilio Carranza Brabata, 54, of Mexico, according to the sheriff's office. He was pronounced dead at the scene.  The two survivors were in critical condition at St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction Sunday night. They were identified as Miguel Henriquez and Moises Carranza, according to Aspen Police Public Information Officer Blair Weyer.

Witnesses inside the Aspen Airport watched as the plane came in for landing.

"It was moving, and then it was doing this (wobbling) and then it hit and flipped and there was smoke and a big ball of flames when it hit," said Julie Jacobs, a witness inside the airport.

The crash closed the Airport.

The aircraft was a private, 22-seat, Canadair CL-600-2B16 Challenger 601-3R that was coming from Tucson, Arizona to Aspen, according to the Aviation Safety Network. The flight originated at the Adolfo-Lopez Mateos International Airport in Toluca, Mexico, about 40 miles west of Mexico City.

Saturday Night Live alum Kevin Nealon tweeted: "Horrible plane crash here at Aspen airport. Exploded into flames as it was landing. I think it was a private jet."

"Fire truck and ambulances were on the scene within minutes," Nealon tweeted. "Airport is closed now. I think I'll drive back to LA after seeing that."

"So sad! Horrible plane crash we just saw happen at the Aspen airport," singer LeAnn Rimes Cibrian tweeted

A woman at the airport terminal described it as "a ball of fire coming down the runway."

Photos from Brent Gardner-Smith at the Aspen Journalism blog showed the jet ended up upside down next to the runway.  http://ch7ne.ws/196zMU6

Flight aware showed the jet circled three times before attempting a landing: http://bit.ly/1gAdsCe

Radio traffic indicated the jet executed a missed approach: "Missed approach November one one five Whiskey Fox. Three-three knots of tailwind."  Audio at 11:15 in: http://ch7ne.ws/1hpFEuI  

A few minutes later, a departing aircraft radioed the tower to ask, "What's with all the smoke behind us at about at our 5 o'clock position?"  The tower answered, "There was an incident here on the runway, sir."

Another pilot radioed, "It happened right in front of us."

All aircraft were then advised the runway was closed and "we don't see it opening anytime soon."

"The airport remains closed until the NTSB gives the go-ahead to clear the wreckage and debris from the runway," the sheriff's office said. "Every effort is being made by airport officials to re-open the airport as soon as possible. Travelers are advised to check with their airlines on flight availability tonight and tomorrow."

The plane is owned by Bank of Utah Trustee, who took over the registration on Dec. 16 from Connecticut-based Canal Air LLC, the Tucson Sentinel reported.

Aspen Airport tweeted that two buses to Denver were scheduled for 9 a.m. Monday for passengers of canceled flights from the airport to DIA.

The most recent fatal plane accident at the Aspen airport was in 2001, when a private jet crashed, killing all 18 people on board, the Aspen Daily News reported.


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