Retired Aurora detective dies in plane crash near Centennial Airport

Daniel Steitz was pilot, only person aboard

ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo. - A plane belonging to a charter and cargo company crashed Tuesday morning in Centennial after the pilot reported a loss of engine power.

The pilot, later identified by the Coroner's Office as Daniel Steitz, was killed by blunt force injuries during the crash. He was a former detective sergeant with the Aurora Police Department, working for the department between 1987 and his retirement in 2011.

"It is with sincere sorrow that we have confirmed a Key Lime Air aircraft, a Cessna 404 has been involved in an accident," company president Cliff Honeycutt said in a statement sent to 7NEWS. "The flight was a cargo flight repositioning empty from Centennial airport to Denver International. (Sic)"

The plane crashed minutes after take-off in the 6600 block of South Billings Way. That's near Arapahoe Road, between Potomac Drive and Jordan Road, about 1.5 miles from the airport.

"He had just taken off and reported to air traffic control he had suffered a loss of engine power," NTSB Senior Air Safety Investigator Jennifer Rodi said, who added that the NTSB's team was still arriving to the crash scene.

The plane hit a trash structure outside of Jim Siffring's home. It did not directly hit the house, but the NTSB said there was some fire damage to one side of the structure. 

Siffring said the flames "just lit up like daylight."

"We rolled up the curtain and there's an airplane on fire outside of our house," said Siffring, who said he and his wife ran outside and emptied their fire extinguishers onto the wreckage. 

Siffring also extended his family's regrets about the loss of the pilot. 

South Metro Fire dispatchers told 7NEWS that only one person was on board the twin-prop Cessna when the plane crashed and that pilot died.

A man driving in the area said he saw the plane pass over Centennial Airport, heading east, and flying extremely low.

"He veered right and went straight down," Steven R. told 7NEWS. "I knew something was not right."

Rodi said the pilot reported a perceived loss of engine power. 

"The airplane came in in a somewhat nose low, wing low, sort of a banked angle if you will, but not completely nose low, not in a stalled position," said Rodi. "It cartwheeled for a couple of feet."

The plane slid through two yards and came close to two homes, but did not hit the homes. No one on the ground was injured.

"We will be documenting the wreckage, the debris field and we will be recovering the airplane and the engines to a location up in Greeley Colorado for the furtherance of our investigation," Rodi said. 

Key Lime Air has not released the pilot's identity, but said the company is supporting the family of the pilot.



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