Eight Killed In Plane Crash Near Malad ‘As Far As A Wreck Goes, This Is About As Bad As It Gets’
The crash of a twin-engine plane in mountainous terrain early Monday killed all eight people aboard, wiping out the upper management team of a Salt Lake City-based Coca-Cola bottler.
The twin turboprop Mitsubishi MU-2B-36A disappeared from radar screens shortly after the pilot radioed there was an unspecified emergency at 6:17 a.m. MST on the flight from Salt Lake City to Pocatello, Idaho.
“As far as a wreck goes, this is about as bad as it gets,” Timothy Mason, a Federal Aviation Administration inspector said after a tour of the crash site. “Usually, you see a wing.”
Mason said it would be difficult to determine the cause of the crash because there isn’t much left of the plane. He said it appears the aircraft came in at a steep, vertical descent and “hit the ground with substantial impact.”
Body parts, some of them burned, were both within the wreckage and scattered around a burned-over area about 100 yards long and 75 yards wide. A crater about 5 feet deep and 12 feet across marked the spot where authorities believe the eight-passenger plane struck.
A portion of a propeller and an engine and a large section of the fuselage were all that was distinguishable amid the wreckage.
Oneida County Sheriff Bill Neal said it appears the plane nose-dived into the ground. He said that based on the point of impact, authorities are assuming the plane was attempting to turn around, away from Pocatello.
“It had to have been a horrible impact,” Neal said. “I’ve been in law enforcement in Oneida County for 20 years and there’ve been three crashes in that time. And this is the worst one.”
Neal said National Transportation Safety Board investigators are due at the site today.
Mitch Barker, FAA spokesman in Seattle, said air traffic controllers in Salt Lake City saw the plane making a rapid descent on radar screens as the pilot reported an emergency.
The pilot of a passing plane reported a fire, but it extinguished itself.
The wreckage was scattered along a relatively flat expanse in foothills at the base of John Evans Canyon seven miles northwest of Malad on private land in the Blue Creek Mountains. Only a little snow was evident around the dry, grassy terrain.
Pocatello is 149 miles north of Salt Lake City. Malad is 102 miles north of the Utah capital.
Among the dead were four executives of Swire Coca-Cola, USA of Salt Lake City and two employees of a Salt Lake advertising firm.
“We are very sorry to announce that Swire Coca-Cola, USA has suffered a great loss today,” said Jeff Edwards, a vice president with Swire Coca-Cola, USA in Salt Lake.
He said the plane carrying local executives and non-employees left Salt Lake City International Airport Monday morning for Pocatello.
Swire is an independent bottler licensed by Coca-Cola and based in Salt Lake.
Kurt Fiedler, vice president of manufacturing for Swire, said the executives were flying into Pocatello for a meeting at the sales center there, called Swire Coca-Cola Pocatello.
They were on a two-week circuit, visiting all of the company’s 35 plants in 12 states, he said.
The company identified the four Swire employees as chief executive officer Craig Taylor, vice president of marketing Gary Barber, chief financial officer Brad Moore and marketing analyst Merlin Mikkelson.
Also among the dead were two employees of Scopes Garcia Carlisle Advertising Inc. of Salt Lake City. Company spokesman Greg Carlisle said William J. Garcia, 44, and Bruce Keyes, both of Salt Lake City, were on the plane.
Garcia was a director at the agency and Keyes was an account supervisor. Swire Coca-Cola is a client of the agency.
Neal identified the pilot as Richard Shipman, owner of Pro Air Services of Salt Lake City, from which Swire was leasing the plane. Phone calls to Pro Air headquarters went unanswered, but acquaintances said Shipman was an experienced pilot.
The eighth victim was identified as Scott Bogan, 27, a Pro Air co-pilot from Salt Lake.
Neal said he found two wallets belonging to Shipman and Garcia. He also said the plane appeared to be coming in from the west when it crashed.
Ray Glidden, flight operations manager for the Idaho Division of Aeronautics, said the search for the plane began about 8:30 a.m., shortly after daylight. The department had received notification of the missing craft about 7 a.m., he said.
ILLUSTRATION: 2 Photos; map of crash site