Jul 20, 2015

Four confirmed dead in Saturday plane crash west of Cody

Four people  two males and two females  died in a Saturday plane crash northwest of the Buffalo Bill Reservoir, the Park County Sheriff's Office announced Monday morning. There were no survivors.

“Taking into account what we know from air traffic control and evidence at the scene, I’m convinced something catastrophic happened aboard that aircraft. However given the condition of the site, it will take some time to sift through the evidence to determine exactly what happened,” Sheriff Scott Steward said in a news release.

The sheriff's office has not yet released the names, ages or residences of the victims, saying the people still need to be positively identified and their next-of-kin notified.

The smoldering remains of the Cessna 310. Photo courtesy Park County Sheriff's Office
According to the sheriff's office, the small twin-engine Cessna 310 went down around midday Saturday, roughly 10 miles northwest of the reservoir and about one-and-a-half miles west of the Mooncrest Ranch, at the end of Rattlesnake Creek Road.

The plane had been headed from the Sheridan airport to Billings, the sheriff's office said.

Shortly after an 11 a.m. takeoff, the plane deviated from its scheduled flight path and circled Yellowstone National Park. After that, the pilot radioed air traffic controllers in Salt Lake City and asked for new Instrument Flight Rules to Billings. The pilot was told to climb to 14,800 feet  and they did  but shortly after that, the plane suddenly turned east toward Cody and went into a steep descent.

Without another word from the plane, air traffic controllers watched it drop below the radar at 11:56 a.m. It crashed northwest of Logan Mountain.

Members of the Park County Search and Rescue Unit located the plane a few hours later and spent the rest of day and Sunday processing the scene. Members of the Shoshone National Forest fire team assisted them.

The victims were airlifted from the site Sunday afternoon by a helicopter from Sky Aviation in Worland, the sheriff's office said. Autopsies have been scheduled for today (Monday).

Representatives from the National Traffic Safety Board will ultimately be taking over the investigation.
Sheriff Scott Steward said it looked like a bomb had exploded. Photo courtesy Park County Sheriff's Office
In the news release, Steward said the crash site looked as though a bomb had exploded.

“The impact area is no bigger than 30 feet in diameter with debris scattered in all directions,” he said.

The sheriff praised the members of the Search and Rescue unit and the Shoshone National Forest fire for the professional recovery of the victims at “what only can be described as a horrific scene.” Steward also thanked the owners of Mooncrest Ranch for their help in getting rescuers to the site of the crash and to Sky Aviation.

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