Preliminary NTSB report released on fatal Kruger Rock plane crash

The National Transportation Safety Board issued a preliminary federal report into the fatal crash of a single-engine air tanker that was fighting the Kruger Rock fire near Estes Park last month.

“The airplane wreckage was upright and displayed features of a low-speed, nose-down impact with sloping and wooded terrain,” the report said. “There was no ground scarring that preceded the wreckage.”

Killed in the Nov. 16 crash was Marc Thor Olson, a pilot for CO Fire Aviation, a Fort Morgan company that fights fires from the air. Olson, an Army and Air Force veteran pilot, was using a novel nighttime firefighting technique at the time of the crash. He had more than 42 years of flying experience and had more than 8,000 flight hours logged, including 1,000 hours of using night-vision goggles during combat and civilian air missions.

“Video of the airplane showed the airplane wing’s rocking as it approached the intended drop location for the aerial firefighting of the Kruger Rock fire,” the report said. “Two witnesses stated that they saw the airplane roll inverted and did not see it descend into terrain. One of the witnesses, who was in radio communication with the pilot, stated that he did not hear the pilot transmit any problems with the airplane nor make any distress calls prior to the accident.”

Damage to the aircraft, an Air Tractor AT-802A, used primarily for agriculture, was “substantial,” according to the report. There was no fire or explosion.

Information in the preliminary two-page NTSB release is subject to change, and it may contain errors, the report said. A final report is pending. The preliminary report did not draw a conclusion on what caused the crash.

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