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Crashed plane's voice recorder arrives in Washington

The so-called black box was delivered to the NTSB headquarters in Washington D.C. on Friday  

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'Gee, that thing is very low'

Airport difficult to approach


ASPEN, Colorado (CNN) -- A cockpit voice recorder from the plane crash that killed all 18 people aboard arrived in Washington Friday for analysis.

Watch part of the news conference with Aspen plane crash investigators and coverage from CNN's Mike Boettcher and Carol Lin

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 Flight passengers
According to Avjet Corp. president Marc Foulcrod the 18 people on board were:
    Mario Aguilar
    Joe Aguilar
    Joey Aguilar
    Danielle Bacon
    Elena Bernal
    Romano Cota
    Ivan Garcia
    Ori Greenberg
    Eugene Kaplansky
    Robert New
    Elizabeth Ann Smith
    Paul Stanifer
    Mir Weis Tuhki
    Maria Valanzuela
    Marissa Witham
    Bob Frisbie (crew)
    Peter Kowalczyk (crew)
    Catherine Naranjo (crew)


As the so-called black box was delivered to the headquarters of the National Transportation Safety Board, investigators examined wreckage at an airport outside Aspen, Colorado, to determine why the Gulfstream III crashed into a nearby mountain during landing.

Experts also will examine data from the recorder in an effort to explain the crash.

"The flight crew did tell the airport they had the runway in sight," Scott said, adding that it appeared the chartered aircraft had been in line with the runway at Sardy Field Airport, about a mile northwest of Aspen.

Scott said the bodies of all 18 people aboard the plane had been recovered. At least two of the victims were news staffers at Los Angeles television station KTTV. They have been identified as assignment editor Mir Tukhi and news desk assistant Marisa Whitham.

The plane was chartered from Burbank, California, on Thursday and made a stop at Los Angeles International Airport before taking off for Aspen at about 4 p.m. Two hours later, the plane was down just 500 yards short of the runway.

Avjet's charter service caters to celebrities, fueling speculation that someone famous may have been aboard the plane. But the release of a passenger manifest in Burbank by Avjet President Marc Foulkrod dismissed such speculation.

Foulkrod said the plane's captain had more than 10,000 flying hours, flight-simulator training and was familiar with the Aspen airport.

"Our deepest and most heartfelt concerns continue to go out to all the families of the passengers and crew," Foulkrod said. "Avjet is assisting family members in every possible way."

'Gee, that thing is very low'

Witnesses said the plane struck a hill and then plunged across a 200-foot culvert between the hill and the airport before slamming into a bluff, known as Shale Bluff, short of the runway.

"It was probably about 200 feet in front of me and 100 feet in the air and it lurched," witness Greg Reszel told The Associated Press. "It was going very, very slowly, so much so that for a minute I thought it was a helicopter.

"There was no noise, I heard no engine noise, and then after that lurch it was almost vertical in the air and it went across the road and slammed into the hillside ...," he added.

Ron Harding was with his wife and four other people traveling from Snowmass, Colorado, to Aspen when the plane flew over their car and then out of sight.

Plane crash site in Aspen, Colorado, on Friday

"We thought, 'Gee, that thing is very low,'" he said. "Before anybody could think too much, we heard a loud noise and saw a massive fireball."

"By the time we got around to the other side of the hill, it was just fire everyplace, debris going up and down the hill, some going out onto the highway," he said.

Airport difficult to approach

Firefighters said a small fire was burning when they arrived. Debris, including pieces of seats, insulation and the fuselage, was scattered for at least 300 feet.

The debris showed the plane lost its tail when it hit the hillside and fell apart as it plunged across the culvert.

A statement from the airport said the plane was attempting an instrument landing as it approached the airport.

Avjet president Marc Foulkrod speaks to reporters Thursday  

CNN Correspondent Charles Feldman, a licensed pilot, said the Aspen airport is difficult to approach. Surrounded by Rocky Mountains towering as much as 3,500 feet above its lone runway, the airport warns approaching pilots that "high rates of descent may be required due to terrain."

"Mountains and valleys create turbulence," Feldman said. "That create updrafts and downdrafts that make (the atmosphere) less stable than it would otherwise be."

CNN Meteorologist Karen Maginnis said some snow and rain were in the region at the time of the crash.

The airport is at an elevation of 7,815 feet.

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Pitkin County Sheriff's Department
Federal Aviation Administration
  • Aspen-Piktin Airport
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  • Guide to High Mountain Flying
  • Plane info | 360° tour
AvJet (Executive Jet Charter, Aircraft Management, Sales and Leasing)
National Transportation Safety Board
AirNav: Aspen-Pitkin Co/Sardy Field Airport
Pitkin County Sheriff's Office
Los Angeles International Airport

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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