A small plane crash just outside of Denver, Colorado, has killed a family of four. The plane crash happened on Friday, September 15, though search crews did not find the debris until just before on Saturday. Officials are investigating what caused the single-engine Cirrus SR22 to crash, while relatives of the deceased are left to struggle with the aftermath.
Utah Family’s Plane Goes Down Near Denver
According to reports, the Makepeace family from Fort Collins was headed from Fort Collins-Loveland Municipal Airport to Moab, Utah, in their Cirrus SR22. Onboard the plane was Jeff Makepeace (47 years old), who also piloted the plane, Jennifer Makepeace (45 years old), Jeff’s wife, and Addison and Benjamin, the couple’s twin 10-year-olds. The family’s dog was also on the plane that fateful night.
As the plane traveled near Glenwood Springs, it crashed, though the circumstances surrounding the crash are still unknown. At around 10:00 p.m. on Friday, the plane lost radar contact, and the Civil Air Patrol and Garfield County Search and Rescue teams began an official search on Saturday morning.
“The aircraft, a Cirrus SR 22, disappeared below radar late Friday night and crashed under unknown circumstances,” said FAA spokesperson Allen Kenitzer via email.
A helicopter crew found the wreckage late Saturday morning. Once the crash site was located, officials determined no one survived the accident.
What Caused the Cirrus SR22 Plane to Crash?
As the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) investigate the plane crash in Colorado, some flight experts have questioned why the plane took off at all that fateful night. Speaking with 9 News, aviation expert Greg Feith noted that the weather on the evening of the accident was “not conducive to what we call VFR flying or visual flight rules.”
Specifically, Feith noted that Makepeace was an inexperienced pilot-having just obtained his certificate on March 1, 2017. With thunderstorms from Fort Collins to Glenwood Springs, a flight path over the Rocky Mountains, and a relatively new pilot, the circumstances could have set the foundation for a plane crash.
That said, as with all plane crashes, investigators will examine a variety of factors to determine why the plane crashed.
“Investigators are going to have to track down all the facets or pieces of the aircraftand the component parts, try to account for all of those to ensure that there was no evidence of mechanical malfunction or failure,” Feith said.
Relatives Respond to Tragic Glenwood Springs Plane Crash
Family members responded to the tragedy with a statement noting that they will grieve the Makepeace family for a long time.
“Our family’s hearts have been broken by this tragic accident,” the statement reads. “Our grief cannot be defined and will be prolonged. But our memories of this amazing family will last forever.”
Jeff Makepeace’s brother, Caleb, remembered Jeff as a hero who would do anything for anybody. He spoke of Jennifer as being just as adventurous as Jeff.
Although Jeff was piloting the plane, he had only received his pilot’s license in 2017.
Cirrus SR22 Involved in Accident Earlier in 2017
The plane crash in Colorado is not the first fatal crash involving a Cirrus SR22 in 2017. In July, investigators from the FAA and NTSB investigated a crash in Sonoma, California, in which the plane reportedly suffered engine failure shortly after takeoff.
The Cirrus SR22 has a parachute that is designed to save planes that have suffered a mechanical malfunction, but according to reports for the parachute to work properly, the plane has to be about 1,000 feet in the air. In Sonoma, the pilot activated the parachute at only 300 feet. That’s because the parachute requires a few seconds to deploy the straps, fill the chute, and level the plane.
Pilot William Sachs Goldman, 38, of San Francisco, died in the plane crash, while his two children and their nanny were taken to a local hospital. Goldman was an assistant professor at the University of San Francisco.
In June 2016, a Cirrus SR20, similar to the SR22, crashed at Hobby Airport in Houston, Texas, killing all three people on board. In that tragedy, the plane attempted three approaches to the airport. The first two times, air traffic control told the pilot the airplane was too high an altitude. On the third attempt, the plane lost power and dove to the ground.
An investigation showed that the rocket motor-which precedes the parachute-deployed either just before or just after the plane crashed, but the parachute did not deploy.