One killed in plane crash on Sardy Field runway

by Curtis Wackerle, Aspen Daily News Staff Writer
Plane took off Sunday morning from Toluca, Mexico, with three aboard

One person died and two are injured after a private plane crashed at the Aspen airport Sunday, according to the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office.

Three passengers were on board the aircraft, which took off Sunday morning from Toluca, Mexico, about 40 miles west of Mexico City. Sergio Emilio Carranza Barbata, 54, was pronounced dead at the scene, according to a sheriff’s office press release. Two injured males were transported to Aspen Valley Hospital, one in fair condition and the other in critical condition, according to a hospital press release. Both of those men, whose identities are being withheld by the National Transportation Safety Board, have since been taken to other hospitals.

All three men were pilots, according to the release. Barbata was described as one of two co-pilots.

The aircraft was a Canadair CL600 that took off this morning in Mexico and refueled in Tucson, Ariz., according to Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer.

The plane was coming in for its second attempt at a landing, with winds gusting to 30 miles per hour, according to published reports referencing air traffic control voice recordings. The crash occurred at 12:23 p.m.

“The aircraft was fully engulfed in flames and had flipped over after impact,” according to the press release. The passengers’ injuries are not believed to be related to the fire, according to the release.

Eyewitnesses said the body of the plane was upside down near the upvalley end of the runway, with a smaller broken-off piece resting closer to the terminal building.

 Chris Council/Aspen Daily News
A view of the private jet that crashed on Sunday afternoon at the Aspen airport, as seen from above on West Buttermilk Road.

Emergency personnel responding to the scene included the Airport Rescue Firefighting Team, the sheriff’s office, Aspen police, Aspen Ambulance, Aspen fire, Snowmass fire, and Basalt fire. The Airport Rescue Firefighting Team had the flames put out within minutes, the release says.

The airport will remain closed until the NTSB gives the go-ahead to remove the wreckage and debris from the runway, a process that may take most of the day today. The cause of the accident is still under investigation by the NTSB and the FAA.

“Every effort is being made by airport officials to reopen the airport as soon as possible,” the sheriff’s office press release says. “Travelers are advised to check with their airlines on flight availability tonight and tomorrow.”

The website reported that the plane involved in the crash had a tail number of N115WF. That plane is registered to the Bank of Utah, which owns numerous aircraft in trust on behalf of third parties. A bank employee working for the trust department said he had no information about the plane or the crash.

Owl Creek Road was temporarily closed but reopened. Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo asked the public to avoid the airport if possible.

Witnesses included comedian Kevin Nealon and singer LeAnn Rimes, who both posted about the crash on Twitter.

“Horrible plane crash here at Aspen airport. Exploded into flames as it was landing. I think it was a private jet,” Nealon wrote, later adding, “Airport is closed now. I think I’ll drive back to LA after seeing that.”

The most recent fatal plane accident at the Aspen airport was in 2001, when a private jet crashed and killed all 18 people on board.

Additional images from the plane crash can viewed online by visiting the following link: