Survivors of fatal crash say plane hit trees

Sunday, June 20, 2010 | 5:20 p.m. CDT; updated 8:27 a.m. CDT, Monday, June 21, 2010

DENVER — The pilot who died in a small plane crash in western Colorado had aborted a landing and was circling to make another attempt when the plane hit trees and crashed, two survivors told investigators.

The National Transportation Safety Board's preliminary report on the June 6 crash also said the plane was flying into the sun, making it difficult to see. The report said the weather was clear.

It didn't list the cause of the crash but said the two survivors told investigators the engine sounded normal and the pilot didn't mention any problems.

William Michael Fritts, 39, of Osceola, Mo., was killed when the Beech G35 crashed near Marble, 125 miles west of Denver. Fritts was listed as the owner of the plane.

The passengers, Kelly M. Schaver, 21, and Jeryl A. Schaver, 56, both of Tucson, Ariz., were treated for injuries. They were the only other people aboard.

The NTSB said the passengers told investigators that Fritts had lowered the landing gear and was looking for the airstrip when he said he had overshot the runway and was turning around to try again.

The passengers said Fritts tried to pull up at the last minute when the plane headed into rising terrain, but that it hit tall aspen trees and crashed to the ground.

Investigators said the plane's left wing had several semicircular dents with tree debris embedded in them. They said the plane was configured for landing, with the landing gear extended and the flaps retracted.

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