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Breaking News

Aspen Plane Crash: Eyewitness Account

Aired March 30, 2001 - 7:20 a.m. ET

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

COLLEEN MCEDWARDS, CNN ANCHOR: More now on our coverage of the crash of a chartered plane just outside of Aspen, Colorado; 18 people have been killed. We have been giving you details of the news conference that has been under way right in Aspen. It has just wrapped up.

The airport has been closed all night there. It is to reopen in two hours. And just another note for you: That plane went down right near Highway 82, which is just outside Aspen. It's a heavily traveled highway. And officials are saying that that highway has now reopened.

Ron Harding saw that crash and actually shot some videotape that we've been showing you of the aftermath of the crash. And he joins us now by telephone from Aspen, Colorado.

Ron, describe what you saw.

RON HARDING, EYEWITNESS: Well, we were driving from Snowmass to Aspen. And we looked. And the plane came over very low. And we thought: Gee, that's thing is very low.

Before anybody could say too much, we heard a loud noise and saw a massive fireball. And we was on the backside of the hill. 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 blowing out onto the highway.

And five ladies from the West L.A. VA, physical therapists, jumped out of the Suburban, ran out into the field, jumped a fence, and were hollering: "Are there anybody that needs help? Are there any survivors?" And nobody answered. And, of course, there was a lot of fuel out there. So they came back to the Suburban. And we waited for the emergency crews to show up.

MCEDWARDS: OK, Ron, just go back a little bit for me, if you would. You said you heard a sound, saw the plane flying in a way that seemed to you to be quite low. Just describe that further. What did the sounds sound like? And why did it seem to you that the plane was low?

HARDING: Well, the only reason we thought it was low, because it was low. I mean, the sound that we heard was the impact. It wasn't because of the engine or anything like that. It just came very low, right over the top of us. My wife was driving, and she said, "Boy, is that low." And bang. Then we heard the explosion and we saw the fire. It was very, very quick.

MCEDWARDS: Could you tell if the plane seemed to be upright? Did it seem to be flying steadily? And did it seem to be sort of in line with the runway?

HARDING: I don't know where the runway is. And, as far as we knew, from the -- as quick as it was, it seemed to be flying fine.

MCEDWARDS: What were you thinking, Ron? What went through your mind?

HARDING: "My God, the plane crashed." I mean, it happened that quick.

MCEDWARDS: Right. OK, Ron Harding, thanks so much for your time.

And, again, Ron Harding is the person who provided that amateur video that we have been showing you of the aftermath immediately after the crash last night.

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, boy, you can just sight anything at anytime. And I'm sure he just couldn't believe what he saw.

MCEDWARDS: Yes.

LIN: Amazing.

All right. Well, right now, we're going leave you with some pictures also of the plane crash scene. You can get an idea of what the weather was like as rescuers were trying to get to the scene to see if anybody was still alive. We're gathering information right now. And we will have more for you as soon as we get back.

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