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Movie Company Jet Crashes, Killing All OnboardAired March 30, 2001 - 8:01 a.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
COLLEEN MCEDWARDS, CNN ANCHOR: A charter jet owned by a movie company crashed last night in Aspen, Colorado, killing all 18 people onboard. The local sheriff says that he did not recognize the names of any of the victims as celebrities, but still there's no confirmation of who was onboard.
The flight of the Gulfstream III jet owned by a unit of Cinergi Pictures Entertainment originated in Burbank, California. The plane stopped at Los Angeles International Airport, to pick up some more passengers, and then it headed for Aspen, with 15 passengers and three crewmembers onboard.
The plane crashed as it approached the airport at Aspen, and that is where national correspondent Mike Boettcher is for us this morning.
Mike, what's the latest?
MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Colleen, from the press conference that was held about an hour ago, we learned one important fact: that the pilot of that Gulfstream business jet reported that he had the runway in sight. So the question is what happened?
Having been in this area for the past three or four days in the neighboring county, Eagle County, I know the weather has been very variable here. One minute it'll be sunny, and the next it'll be whiteout conditions, and it's continued on that way for the last three days.
And the weather here at about 7:00 last night, when the plane crashed, was very, very light snow, and then it started picking up at about 7:10 or 7:15.
So the exact time of that crash and what the weather was at that point will be key in the investigation.
Let me situate you where we are right now. Behind me is the approach that was made by that Gulfstream coming from that mountain that you can see behind me, coming this direction. About 100 yards to this direction is the airstrip. Over here is Highway 82, the highway that leads into Aspen, a very busy highway. So there were many eyewitnesses who reported seeing the plane in trouble and a very unusual attitude, a nose-up attitude.
Now, at that press conference today, the NTSB investigators and the local Sheriff's Department here in Pitkin County say they have already recovered important pieces of evidence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ARNOLD SCOTT, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: The airplane struck a hill just short of the runway.
And by the way, we did recover the cockpit voice recorder, which I'll turn over the go team when they arrive.
SHERIFF BOB BAUDIS, PITKIN COUNTY, COLORADO: Some of the families have been contacted by the Coroner's Office and some by the owner of the aircraft. We're trying to coordinate those efforts right now, as we speak.
I didn't recognize any of the names as celebrities.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOETTCHER: The NTSB go team will be arriving here in about one hour, 7:00 local time, 9:00 Eastern. They will begin sifting through the wreckage, interviewing eyewitnesses, and talking to the control tower, and they will start from scratch, without making any assumption. Their investigation could take several months. These investigations from the NTSB are very meticulous and usually take that long -- Colleen.
MCEDWARDS: All right, Mike. A little bit more about the airport, if you would. It's what, 7,815 feet above sea level? You've already pointed out the mountains in there behind you. We know from the NTSB that the plane hit a hill just short of the runway. This is known as a pretty tricky airport, isn't it?
BOETTCHER: Yes, it is. Those mountains are the easy part, coming in. You can't see this, but on either side, we're kind of in a little box valley here. So the problem is when you're flying instrument conditions into this airport, you have to approach from this direction. And if you have a problem and you have to make a go- around in bad conditions, you have mountains on the three sides you would have to go around. So it's very difficult.
There is a hill about 500 yards short of the runway down there; that is the hill where the Gulfstream impacted.
And according to the eyewitnesses, there was a fire on impact -- Colleen.
MCEDWARDS: All right, CNN's Mike Boettcher, thanks.
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, we've got more on that accident.
The Gulfstream was on an instrument approach to the Aspen Airport when it crashed. That's not unusual, because of that tricky terrain. Light snow was also falling at the time, but the crew did tell the control tower it, in fact, had the runway in sight. And when it crashed, it was only about 500 yards away from that runway. But let's go to meteorologist Dave Hennen to talk a little bit more about the weather.
Dave, because of the terrain around the airport, I understand that it's inclined to be very windy with lots of sudden updrafts and downdrafts.
DAVID HENNEN, CNN METEOROLOGIST: That can happen. I don't think wind was a factor though, Carol. According to the what we call the ASOS site -- it is a site that controls the observations around there -- the winds were very light, only about three to five miles per hour. The problem was the drop in visibility.
Now the crash occurred at approximately 7:00 p.m. Mountain Standard Time. There was high variability, though, in the weather between those timeframes.
At 6:53 p.m., the visibility was more than 10 miles. There was a little bit of light snow falling, though. But then about 7:12 p.m., the visibility dropped very quickly, down to about 1 3/4 of a mile, as a snow shower moved over the airport. So it is about that time when the plane approached, and that could have been a factor with the visibility dropping so quickly.
So wind was probably not a factor, Carol, but it certainly looks like the light snow that moved in may have been.
LIN: All right, Dave Hennen, at the weather center, thank you.
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