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Instructor, student killed after apparent mid-air collision over Longmont

9:21 PM, Mar 23, 2012   |    comments
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  • Plane crash (CREDIT: Kim R Johnson)
  • Plane crash (CREDIT: Kim R Johnson)
  • Plane crash (CREDIT: Becky Lewus)
  • Plane crash (CREDIT: Becky Lewus)
  • Plane crash (CREDIT: Becky Lewus)

The first plane went down at 11:43 a.m. around Colorado Highway 119 and East County Line Road 1 in Longmont.

The Weld County coroner's office says two people died instantly in that plane crash, which was near a Walmart. Police say a 31-year-old instructor and a 64-year-old student pilot were on that plane. Their names have not been released.

"He just accelerated right into the ground and that was it. I mean, one big boom and that was it," Joe Baker, a witness, said.

Another plane crashed just north of the Vance Brand Municipal Airport entrance at 11:48 a.m. It crashed onto the property in between some hangers into some industrial equipment after taking out a power line. The plane apparently ended up landing backwards.

Witnesses say both planes crashed after they collided in the air.

Longmont Police Cmdr. Tim Lewis said Friday's crashes occurred within five minutes of each other - and about six miles apart - but he didn't know if the planes had collided. FAA spokesman Mike Fergus says the crashes were being investigated as a possible mid-air collision.

The pilot of the plane that crashed at the airport was taken to a local hospital. The pilot was conscious when transported, and officials say the injuries appear to not be life-threatening. 9NEWS has learned her name is Beverly Cameron and the hospital is listing her in good condition. Cameron is an experienced FAA designated pilot examiner.

Authorities say she stayed in the air for about five minutes after the apparent collision and went about 4 miles to the airport. Lewis says Cameron did a "heroic job" by avoiding populated areas.

"The pilot did an excellent job of clearing the roadway and avoiding any other occupied areas. This is - people come out here and have their lunches," Lewis said. "She stayed clear of them and got into an area where there was no one. So she did a heroic job."

Two people in the nearby area saw the plane crash and ran over to the plane. They pulled the pilot out of the craft as fuel was leaking. Lewis credits these Good Samaritans with possibly saving the pilot's life.

"It was pretty intense," Julio Peinado, a Longmont Public Works employee who was one of those who rushed over to the plane, said. "There were still parts flying around. There was fuel coming out of the engine and out of the plane at that point. I just wanted to get out of there before it caught fire."

Authorities were able to contain the fuel leak, and it did not cause a fire.

The City of Longmont, Longmont Police, Longmont Power and Communications all responded. The power company was working to repair the downed lines and restore lost power in the area. The NTSB is on the scene investigating the incident.

Kim Johnson was one of many who saw the plane on Highway 119 crash near the Walmart.

"I looked up, and I saw two planes. One plane - the Cessna Sky Hawk [172] - had a wing clipped off the end of it, and it just did a spiral into the ground," Johnson said. "There was another plane. That plane seemed to be fine. I couldn't see any damage to [that] plane. But, I figured he was going back to Longmont Airport."

Johnson is a private pilot.

"I heard the engine rev on one of the planes, and I looked up. I noticed that one plane was trying to avoid the other plane. But, then I noticed that part of the wing was gone," Johnson said. "You just heard a thud."

Johnson flies out of Longmont often and he says there are a lot of private planes that come in and out of the area.

Another eyewitness says the planes were flying about 300 yards apart when they banked into each other. That witness claims - at that point - one plane spiraled down to the ground while the other plane seemed to "limp" back towards the airport.

"It kind of looked like they were both in each other's blind spot 'cause they were both banking. And I kind of looked away right then and within 30 seconds I heard the boom and it kind of shook the ground," Tom Ruddick, a witness, said. "They were less than 300 yards from each other and they were banking toward each other."

Ruddick was with a work crew that saw the crash happen.

"We heard the engine pop and kind of stutter, and we looked up and we saw him going into a nose dive and a tail spin," Baker said. "And he hit the ground. We heard the impact and saw the dust and we all just ran over there with our trucks to see if there was anything we could do."

Former NTSB investigator Greg Feith says the airspace around the Longmont airport is not controlled.

"For VFR traffic going in and out of Vance Brand Airport, as long as you stay below 10,000 feet it's what they call uncontrolled airspace. So it's now incumbent upon the pilots to do what we call 'see and avoid.' They're going to be looking out the window for other traffic. They're going to be making radio calls in the blind to provide other pilots position information," Feith said.

Feith says pilots need to let other pilots in the area know what their intentions are so they can avoid each other.

"There is no control tower so these two aircraft are not talking to anybody at Vance Brand Airport," Feith said.

"That's something that happens in the movies, you know? You don't expect to be working on a Friday morning and see a plane crash into the ground right in front of you. You just don't expect that," Baker said.

(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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