Passenger: Plane seemed to stall before YVRA crash
February 29, 2012
Denver — Scott Humpal, the owner of the plane that crashed just short of the runway at Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden earlier this month, told investigators the twin-engine Cessna 414A seemed to stall and then fall straight to the ground.
The Feb. 19 crash killed Humpal's wife, Gaby Humpal, as well as pilot Hans Vandervlugt. The crash happened during a snowstorm, and airport officials have said visibility was near zero at the time.
A National Transportation Safety Board report dated Monday states that Scott Humpal, of Corpus Christi, Texas, told investigators about the flight's last few seconds. The report is preliminary and doesn't list the cause of the crash.
According to the report, there was no indication of any distress call from Vandervlugt in the moments before the crash.
Scott Humpal told investigators that the pilot had made two left-turning circles and had begun a third circle when the plane "just stalled." Humpal said the plane fell straight down to the ground. He also told investigators the plane's engines were running at the time of the accident, according to the NTSB report.
The report also provides details about the weather at the time of the crash. As airport officials previously stated, flying conditions generally were good 20 minutes before the crash, but visibility dropped from five miles to one-quarter mile when a snow squall moved in just before the crash. The cloud ceiling dropped from 2,900 feet to 400 feet, and winds picked up from 5 knots to 10 knots, with gusts up to 14 knots, according to data from YVRA's weather station.
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Scott Humpal and the couple's three children were injured in the crash. Ten-year-old Sara is in fair condition at a Denver-area hospital. Humpal and his two teenage sons were treated at Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs and later released.
The family was on its way to Steamboat for a ski vacation. Vandervlugt, 75, had piloted airplanes for 60 years and had flown for the Humpals for about 10 years, according to his wife.