A former Durango man who died this week in a motorized glider plane crash near Telluride was remembered as a fine woodworker as well as a longtime pilot.
Robert B. Saunders, 64, known to some as “Glider Bob,” was piloting the aircraft when it went down for unknown reasons about 2 p.m. Wednesday in Prospect Basin, which is within the Telluride Ski Resort boundaries, according to a news release issued by the San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office.
A passenger on board, Ronald James Uekert, 66, of South Fork, also died in the crash.
The National Transportation Safety Board arrived Thursday to investigate the crash, but as of Thursday afternoon, there were no clues as to why the plane went down, said Susan Lilly, spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Office.
Saunders was a longtime glider pilot and flight instructor at the former Val-Air Glider Port in the Animas Valley north of Durango.
He also was a fine woodworker who specialized in cabinetry and furniture at his woodshop in Gem Village, said his longtime friend, George Usinowicz, of Durango. He made the massive wooden front door for the former Farquarhts bar in Durango, which opened with ease hundreds of times a day, millions of times in its lifetime, he said.
“Classical music played in his woodshop while he shaped his wood pieces,” Usinowicz wrote in an email to the Herald.
He also enjoyed dancing, acting and snowboarding.
He moved to Telluride in the 1990s and operated Glide Telluride, which offered year-round flights reaching 14,000 to 15,000 feet in elevation out of the Telluride Regional Airport. He was flying a German Stemme Motorglider, which has its own engine and propeller that allowed him to takeoff without being towed and tucked away under a streamlined nose when not in use.
The crash was reported at 2:11 p.m. Wednesday. First responders said neither man had a pulse. They attempted life-saving measures but were unsuccessful.
“His furniture, his door, his acting performances, his dancing instruction, his glider experiences all remain as heirloom memories, as does the memory of Glider Bob in our hearts,” Usinowicz wrote in his remembrance to the Herald.