NTSB completes investigation

Remaining plane crash survivors released from hospital

— The remaining passengers in Sunday's plane crash near Rabbit Ears Pass were released from the hospital.

Steve Palmer, 22, of Colorado Springs and the pilot, Lloyd "Skip" Moreau, 53, left Yampa Valley Medical Center three days after the Piper Cherokee Saratoga they were flying in crashed into a thick stand of trees just minutes after taking off from the Steamboat Springs Airport. His mother, 57-year-old Henrietta Palmer, died of injuries sustained in the crash. Two other passengers and three dogs survived.

Palmer, who sat in the co-pilot seat and was listed in good condition throughout his stay, suffered from strains to his feet, left knee, elbow and wrist. He also had a neck strain and a chest wall contusion.

Moreau had surgery Monday for a broken arm. He also suffered a bruised left lung, concussion, fractured left rib, facial and scalp lacerations and hypothermia and frostbite on his toes.

The third survivor, Neil "Tony" Marsh, was treated and released from the hospital Sunday night.

The group had come to Steamboat to visit Henrietta Palmer's son, Joseph Almeida, who lives in Oak Creek with his wife, Carrie. The group was returning to the Fremont County Airport Sunday.

The National Transportation Safety Board's on-site crash investigation has been completed, according to a Denver-based NTSB employee. However, investigators may take more than a year to determine the cause of the crash.

The NTSB and Federal Aviation Administration arrived in Steamboat Monday night. The FAA completed its on-site investigation on Tuesday.

In a 911 call made shortly after the plane crash, Palmer said that the plane did not get enough altitude to go over the mountains after taking off from Steamboat Springs Airport.

"We didn't have enough altitude to clear the trees and we came out rough and we went end over end," Palmer told the dispatcher in the 911 call that was made minutes after the plane went down.

In an interview on Tuesday, the trio of survivors agreed not to discuss the flight, but Moreau said "I tried to get the airplane slowed down as quick as I could," before it crashed.

Bob Maddox, who owns Mountain Flight Service and has flown out of Steamboat Spring Airport thousands of time, said the most common mistake pilots make flying out of mountain airports is recognizing too late they are not gaining altitude fast enough to clear the mountains.

Routt County Emergency Services Director Chuck Vale said the local team's work is complete. The sheriff's office, NTSB, FAA and U.S. Forest Service returned to the site Tuesday to take photographs and gather the passengers' belongings. The U.S. Forest Service was concerned the 80,000 gallons of fuel from the plane crash could leak into the waterways, but Vale said they were "happy" with what they saw.


-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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