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Breaking News

Federal Investigators En Route to Aspen Crash Site

Aired March 30, 2001 - 6:02 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LINDA STOUFFER, CNN ANCHOR: We are following a breaking story. Federal investigators are right now on their way to Aspen, Colorado, where a charter plane crashed right near the airport last night.

JASON CARROLL, CNN ANCHOR: A Gulfstream III slammed into a hillside close to the only runway at Aspen-Pitkin County Airport. All 18 people on board were killed.

CNN National Correspondent Mike Boettcher joins us now live from Aspen, Colorado, with the very latest on what's happening there.

Good morning, Mike.

MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Jason.

Well, we're at the Aspen Airport. And about a quarter of a mile back there is the crash site. The runway is over here about 100 yards. So you can see how the airplane was lined up when it impacted at about 7:00 p.m. It was to the left of the runway if it was approaching from the north.

Now eyewitnesses say that the plane didn't act right as it was flying in here, that the weather was bad. And when they saw it break through some of the overcast, they saw it in a funny nose-upright position.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RON HARDING, WITNESS: Well, we saw a plane come over the top of us, and then we heard a loud crash and a big fireball. And as we turned the corner, we could see everything was on fire.

And we had five ladies with us from the physical therapy department in Los Angeles. And they all jumped out, ran into the field, and jumped the fence, and tried to find if there -- find out if anybody was alive or if they could help anybody.

GREG RESZEL, WITNESS: Probably about 200 feet in front of me, probably 100 feet up, it lurched. And it was going very, very slowly, so much that for a moment, I thought it was a helicopter. And 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 there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOETTCHER: The Gulfstream business jet was carrying 15 passengers and three crew.

It originated at Burbank Airport in California. It made a stop at Los Angeles International Airport to pick up passengers, and then proceeded to Aspen.

At the crash site, there were only small pieces of the aircraft, according to officials from the Sheriff's Department I spoke to earlier this evening.

Also there is an impact crater eyewitnesses say that when the plane hit the ground, it exploded into flames.

We do not have the names of the 18 people, who were on board the aircraft. But there is a press conference scheduled by the Pitkin Count Sheriff's Office at seven o'clock this morning, 5:00 a.m. Mountain time. Perhaps we'll know more then -- Jason.

CARROLL: Mike, I know it's early on in this investigation, but can you give us any sense of what the NTSB will be searching for? For example, is there a black box that they will be looking for when they're out there looking through the wreckage?

BOETTCHER: Usually on a business jet, you won't find a black box like you'll find on an airliner. Although in some instances, some may have those. So they'll check on that. They'll be able to go through the aircraft records and see if there indeed is one. But that would be unusual for a business aircraft.

They'll look at the crash pattern. They'll talk to eyewitnesses. But they'll start from scratch, and they will not make any assumptions. And it will take several months for this investigation to proceed.

But as you can see, snow is falling now. The snow was falling more heavily when that crash occurred. And weather will be a major factor that they will be looking at -- Jason.

CARROLL: All right, thanks so very much for that update.

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