Deadly Aspen Crash Left 'Devastating' Scene of Flames, Smoke on Runway

The pilots were concerned with gusty winds shortly before the landing attempt.

January 6, 2014, 5:22 AM

Jan. 6, 2014— -- A private jet went off the side of a runway in Aspen, Colo., flipped over and burst into flames, leaving one person dead and two others injured.

The private jet with three people on board was on its second landing attempt when it crashed at the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport in Aspen, Colo., Sunday afternoon.

"It was almost as if a fuse was lit and it went that quickly down the runway and the heat and the smoke were pretty devastating," eyewitness Bruce Gordon said.

Heidi Levey said she heard screams and looked out a window just in time to see the aircraft explode.

"Everyone was crying and just very upset," she said. "It was scary. You don't want to see a plane in flames."

Co-pilot Sergio Carranza Brabata, 54, of Mexico, was killed in the crash, according to the Pitkin County Sheriff's office.

Pete Smarr, nursing supervisor at St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction, told ABC News today Miguel Henriquez is in critical condition and Moises Carranza is in serious condition.

"The injuries were traumatic in nature, but they were not thermal," Pitkin County Sheriff's Office director of operations Alex Burchetta said Sunday. "So the fire never reached inside the cabin as far as we can tell."

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating and the airport will remain closed for now. The sheriff's office said the airport would reopen as soon as possible. But it did not provide a timeline, saying the NTSB must give approval to remove the debris from the runway.

The plane originated from Mexico and stopped in Tucson, Ariz., before arriving in Aspen.

Weather was overcast all day Sunday in Aspen with the temperature hovering around 10 degrees. Gusty winds forced the plane to abort its first landing attempt. According to transcripts from the cockpit voice recorder there was no mayday issued by the pilots although there was concern over wind gusts.

"There's not a large margin for error in Aspen airport when you've got a tailwind, you've got low weather. You have to know where the mountains are, you have to know what the approach is, but it can stack up on you pretty fast," ABC News aviation consultant John Nance said.

Witnesses, including singer LeAnn Rimes Cibrian and comedian Kevin Nealon, reported seeing the plane crash on Twitter and wrote that smoke was coming from the site.

Around 2:30 p.m. ET, Nealon wrote, "Horrible plane crash here at Aspen airport. Exploded into flames as it was landing. I think it was a private jet."

Peter Knudson, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board, confirmed the plane was a Canadair CL-600, a midsized private jet.

ABC News' Matt Hosford and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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