NTSB releases preliminary report in plane crash that killed 4 members of Fort Collins family

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. – The pilot of a small plane that crashed near Glenwood Springs, killing all four aboard, was not certified to fly in the conditions he found himself in the night of Sep. 15, according to the initial findings from the National Transportation Safety Board.

The crash killed the pilot, 47-year-old Jeff Makepeace, his 45-year-old wife, Jennifer, and their twin 10-year-old children, Addison and Benjamin. The Cirrus SR22 took off from Fort Collins and was heading to Moab when it went down in mountainous terrain near Baxter Peak.

The NTSB Accident Preliminary Report released Tuesday did not include a cause, however the report indicated that weather conditions at the time of the crash required a certifiable understanding of instrument flying. Jeff Makepeace was a non-instrument rated pilot flying on a visual flight rule (VFR) flight plan at the time the Fort Collins family took off.

According to preliminary air traffic control information, about 10 miles northeast of Glenwood Springs, the airplane turned to the northwest, climbed to about 12,000 feet, and continued northwest for about 12 miles. The airplane then turned back to the southwest and gradually descended. 

A weather station near the crash scene reported an overcast ceiling, low visibility and strong wind gusts. This is considered instrument conditions, which means pilots must rely on their instruments to fly. But it’s unclear how much experience or knowledge the pilot had in these conditions.

The airplane impacted trees and terrain when it crashed near Baxter Peak. A post-impact fire consumed a portion of the airplane wreckage. Several trees were severed at different heights, just prior to the initial impact with terrain, the report notes. The airframe and engine were fragmented and distributed in the debris field. 

Garfield County search and rescue crews found the wreckage site around 11:30 a.m. Saturday and confirmed that no one had survived. 

Jeff was the owner of Lind’s Plumbing and Heating in Fort Collins while his wife, Jennifer, was a stay at home mom. The twins attended fourth grade at Bauder Elementary School.

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