NTSB begins investigation into fiery plane crash at Aspen airport; 1 killed, 2 survived

ASPEN, Colo. - Experts with the National Transportation Safety Board began the investigation Monday into a deadly crash at the Aspen/Pitkin County airport, which has closed the airport until further notice.

The flight originated in Toluca, Mexico, and made a stop in Tucson, Arizona, according to the Aviation Safety Network. The plane crashed in Aspen at 12:33 p.m. Sunday

Three pilots were on board, according to Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo. The co-pilot, Sergio Emilio Carranza Brabata, 54, of Mexico, died.  Two others survived.

"I saw one man walk away from the aircraft and put himself on a stretcher," DiSalvo said.

The survivors were initially taken to a hospital in Aspen. DiSalvo said they were moved to St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction for further treatment. The survivors were identified as Miguel Henriquez and Moises Carranza, according to Aspen Police Public Information Officer Blair Weyer.

All three are Mexican nationals.

- Investigation, wreckage

Experts with the NTSB arrived in Aspen Sunday night. They saw the site Sunday night, but did not begin their full investigation until Monday morning.

The wreckage remained on the runway Monday because of safety concerns such as the jet fuel and still active batteries on board. Brian Grefe with the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport said officials from GE and Bombardier are expected to arrive Monday afternoon to provide more information about the plane.

A crane, a front end loader and other heavy equipment is being used to stabilize the wreckage.

Grefe said the runway appears to have minor damage.

"It's minor, nothing that would inhibit safety," Grefe said.

Grefe said there was also minor damage to nearby signs and lights.

Grefe said flights were fully booked this week and more than 3,000 people have been affected by the closure already.

The airlines are busing passengers to Grand Junction or Denver so they can take flights, Grefe said.

-- Sheriff praises rescuers

On Monday, DiSalvo said the first responders --  the Aircraft Rescue Firefighting Team from the airport -- are the reason two people survived the crash.

"The single-handedly saved lives," DiSalvo said.

-- Witnesses talk about crash

"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.

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."

Flight Aware showed that 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."

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