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Pilot dies in single-engine air tanker crash near Estes Park

Crash happened near Kruger Rock Fire
single-engine tanker crash estes park.jpg
Larimer County Sheriff's Office vehicle
Posted at 7:37 PM, Nov 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-17 12:10:14-05

ESTES PARK, Colo. — The pilot of a single-engine air tanker that crashed south of Estes Park near the Kruger Rock Fire did not survive.

The Larimer County Sheriff’s Office confirmed it first received reports of the plane crash at 6:47 p.m. near Hermit Park, which is about 4.5 miles from downtown Estes Park. At approximately 9:49 p.m., search teams located the crash site near the south end of Hermit Park.

The sheriff's office confirmed the pilot was the only occupant of the plane. The pilot has not been identified, but the AT802 Air Tractor was owned by the private company CO Fire Aviation.

A Denver7 crew spotted a plane flying near the fire shortly after 6 p.m., and our partners at ABC News confirmed the tail number on the plane matches the tail number of the single-engine air tanker that went down.

FlightAware, an aircraft tracking website, showed a single-engine air tanker that left Northern Colorado Regional Airport in Loveland around 6:15 p.m. and was last tracked in the Hermit Park Area around 6:30 p.m. Wind gusts at the time were 40 to 50 mph.

A spokesperson for the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center also confirmed Larimer County Search and Rescue reached out for help finding the plane. It requested a single rotor chopper at first light or sooner. Civil Air Patrol was also helping. It's unclear if they'll still be assisting now that the plane has been located.

ABC News has also learned the single-engine air tanker is flown by a private company typically contracted through the state, however, Tuesday night it was flying for Larimer County.

Conor Cahill, a spokesperson for Gov. Jared Polis' office, released the following statement:

"Our prayers are with the pilot, their family, their aviation family and the firefighting community."

Rep. Joe Neguse also released a statement: "Keeping the brave pilot and his family in my thoughts and prayers — and all of the brave first responders and firefighters protecting Estes Park and our entire community."

The investigation into the crash will be led by the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.