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Plane crash investigation continues Monday

11:06 AM, Feb 8, 2010   |    comments
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Until further notice, the Hidden Valley, Degge, Mesa Reservoir and Cobalt trails are closed. The Eagle Trail is closed from the valley uphill to the west. The Sage Trail is open. Closure information will be posted at trailheads. All of the closures are temporary.

Three people were killed in the mid-air collision over Boulder County. The pilot and passenger of a Cirrus plane and the pilot of a Piper Pawnee were identified Sunday.

9NEWS spoke Sunday with the son of the owner and pilot of the Cirrus plane. Andy Matthews confirmed that his father, Robert "Bob" Matthews, 58, of Boulder, was piloting the plane. Bob's brother, Mark Matthews, 56, of Englewood, was a passenger. Both were killed in the accident.

"It's one of those things you always remember. Where you were. How you felt," Andy Matthews said. "This stuff doesn't happen to people who are careful. It seems like if they tried to do this, they wouldn't be able to do it. It's just unbelievable. I can't believe it. I'm still in shock."

The Boulder County Coroner's office confirmed Sunday that the pilot of the Piper Pawnee killed in the crash was Alexander "Alex" Howard Gilmer, 25, of Evergreen. Gilmer worked for Mile-High Gliding which is based at the Boulder Municipal Airport.

In a press conference held Sunday, National Transportation Safety Board spokesperson Jennifer Rodi said they have interviewed the survivors, a pilot and two passengers of the glider that was being towed by the Piper Pawnee. The glider was released from the tow plane just before the collision, and all three passengers landed safely.

Rodi says in interviews with the glider pilot, the NTSB learned the pilot of the Pawnee observed the Cirrus "out of the corner of his eye," knew he was on a collision course, and elected to separate the tow strap that was attached to the glider.

"It was then described as immediate disintegration and explosion of both airplanes," she said.

Investigators say they have radar information from the Cirrus plane, which they say departed the Boulder County Municipal Airport about 12:45 p.m.

"We were able to pick the aircraft up shortly thereafter and observe it in a southbound direction at approximately 8,500 feet, 8,400 feet, 8,300 feet until the time of the impact," Rodi said.

There is no altitude information associated with the radar data from the Piper Pawnee.

Rodi says the investigation could last six to nine months. Investigators will have to rely solely on radar data and eyewitness accounts to piece together what happened. The planes involved in the accident do not have black boxes. Rodi says they sometimes carry a communication device similar to a black box, but the impact of the explosion and fire destroyed everything in the planes.

The NTSB anticipates the wreckage recovery will be finalized Monday afternoon. A preliminary report is due out Wednesday.

The families of Bob and Mark Matthews issued a statement Sunday afternoon. In it, they say: "Mark and Bob were men who were dearly loved. Wherever they went, they impacted their community with their integrity, kindness, humor and love. They will be sorely missed by their adoring wives, children and family and friends."

Bob Matthews leaves behind his wife Cindy, two sons, a daughter, a grandson, a daughter-in-law and a fiancé to his daughter.

Mark Matthews leaves behind his wife Cindy, a son and daughter and a daughter-in-law.

(KUSA-TV © 2010 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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