4 Killed In Centennial Plane Crash

A twin-engine plane crashed Saturday night while trying to land at Centennial Airport, killing all four people on board.

The Cessna 425 Corsair crashed at about 8:20 p.m. in an empty field near Peoria and Lincoln, just three miles east of Interstate 25 and about a half-mile from homes, authorities said.

The plane, which had traveled from Sandpoint, Idaho, was registered to Sgavit Aviation of Littleton, owned by Stephen Gavit of Littleton, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Mike Fergus said.

Dental records will be needed to confirm the victims' identities, but a man who visited the crash site Sunday said Stephen Gavit, who was in his mid-60s, was the pilot and the passengers were Gavit's teenage grandson, his grandson's friend and Gavit's friend.

Buddy Lewis, 58, who said he had worked for Gavit's Littleton-based company Accutronics Inc. for 16 years, said the four were returning from a fishing trip in Idaho. He said he talked to Gavit's former wife, Candy, Sunday morning.

Lewis said Gavit was an experienced pilot, who knew how to fly planes and helicopters.

"He was very, very good to me, a good guy to work for, very generous, and he looked out for his employees," Lewis said. "He's landed in some absolutely terrible conditions all over the place. He's an excellent pilot."

Witnesses had reported seeing a fireball but were surprised when they didn't hear any type of explosion.

"You'd think it would be a Hollywood type of crash, that you'd see the flames and you'd hear it, but it was real subtle. You'd see flames but you couldn't hear it. It's still too close for comfort for me and my mom though," said eyewitness Chris Kellan.

The crash ignited several small grass fires, but they were quickly extinguished, said Andy Lyon, a spokesman for South Metro Fire Rescue. The wreckage, which was strewn over about 1,000 feet, was located near a large power line but the line isn't believed to have caused the crash, Lyons said.

The plane left a 50-foot-long scar on the ground, then bounced up and hit a hill.

Authorities don't know what caused the plane to go down. A team with the National Transportation Safety Board began investigating the crash Sunday. They are taking a look at whether the instrument landing system was working properly and whether rain played a role in the crash.

Investigators hope to have a preliminary cause by the end of the week.

This is the fourth fatal plane crash near Centennial Airport since December. Ten people have died in those crashes.

Neighbors in the area say they are concerned about the number of crashes near their homes and have considered moving away, but others also realize that Centennial Airport -- the second busiest general aviation airport in the country -- was there long before their homes were built.

"These days, every time we see a plane fly over, we're listening to their engines to make sure they're working all right," said Brian Meyers, 32, who lives in an apartment complex near the crash site.

"We had that conversation last night. I said, 'So, should we pack it up and look for a new house?'" said resident Mandy Moore.

An airport spokeswoman called the accidents "tragic anomalies" and said a recent study put the chances of a plane crashing into a home at under 1 percent.

"At this point, there is nothing that we have that indicates it's a dangerous airfield," said Aaron Sauer, a National Transportation Safety Board investigator. "It's a very busy airfield."

On Aug. 4, a twin-engine cargo plane vanished from radar on approach to Centennial Airport before it crashed, killing the pilot. The plane was a turboprop Mitsubishi MU-2B-60, the same type of plane that crashed near the airport on Dec. 10, killing two pilots.

Also in December, a Cessna 421 crashed shortly after takeoff, killing the three people on board. The pilots in the December crashes had both reported engine trouble.

The wreckage of this recent crash was moved to a hangar in Greeley as the NTSB continues its investigation.

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