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3 dead in Telluride air crash

Sheriff: Plane struck cliff shortly after its takeoff

Three people died when a private plane struck a cliff shortly before noon Sunday just after takeoff from Telluride Regional Airport.

No names have been released, but authorities said the deceased were from Arizona.

“At about 11:26 a.m., a single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza left the Telluride airport in rather inclement weather and crashed about one mile west of the airport,” said San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters.

The plane was heading to Cortez Municipal Airport, and its last communication was from the runway in Telluride, according to sheriff’s spokeswoman Susan Lilly.

Masters said two occupants may have been in training during the flight.

He said when the plane crashed, the emergency location device did not alert initially, making efforts to find the aircraft difficult.

“We couldn’t find the plane to start with because the ELD didn’t go off,” Masters said. “But then it changed locations enough or shifted enough to go off later in the day.”

A contract helicopter with the San Miguel Sheriff’s Office, the Air Force Civil Air Patrol and ground crews were dispatched to find the missing plane, and the crash site was located at 5:17 p.m. Sunday.

A technical recovery will take place today.

“I don’t know what the cause of the crash was,” Masters said.

He said it was apparent the plane struck a vertical rock wall. Masters said the Federal Aviation Administration will investigate the cause.

“It did hit a cliff,” he said. “It was about 300 feet off the top.”

Adverse weather was widespread throughout the region Sunday.

bmathis@durangoherald.com

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