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2 men die in small plane crash shortly after takeoff from Aspen airport

Midway Pass
Posted at 9:01 AM, Jul 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-08 08:06:30-04

PITKIN COUNTY, Colo. — Two people from New York died after a small plane took off from the Aspen Pitkin County airport on July 4 and crashed shortly afterward.

On July 4 around 10:24 a.m., the Pitkin County Regional Emergency Dispatch Center received a call from a person who said her friend — who was flying to Des Moines, Iowa from the Aspen Pitkin County airport — was overdue. She said her friend left Aspen on July 3 around 4:30 p.m. and had not arrived in Des Moines. The woman told dispatch that she was tracking her friend's plane, which was a Beechcraft Bonanza, and saw the flight path had ended about 30 miles east of Aspen, according to the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office.

The sheriff’s office and Air Force Rescue Coordination Center began investigating and searching around Midway Pass, with the help of a plane from Colorado’s Division of Fire Prevention and Control. Rescuers from the all-volunteer Mountain Rescue Aspen began a field search. A helicopter from the Colorado Army National Guard High-Altitude Aviation Training Site (HAATS) in Gypsum also joined in the search.

Midway Pass is about nine miles east of Aspen.

Around 5:34 p.m., the helicopter from HAATS located wreckage from an aircraft, the sheriff's office said. The helicopter landed and rescuers were able to recover the remains of two people.

All rescuers were out of the field by 8 p.m.

Pitkin County Chief Deputy Coroner Audra Keith identified the human remains as Ruben Cohen, 46, of New York and David Zara, 58, of New York.

At 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Mountain Rescue Aspen and the Pitkin County Coroner’s Office started a mission to return to the wreckage site with the hope of searching the area and collecting human remains. This was not possible on July 4, when crews first found the downed plane.

The crews completed the recoveries around 4 p.m. Tuesday.

The cause of the plane crash is under investigation.