Friday, December 10, 2004

Crash cause unknown

Too early for investigators to draw conclusions

Express Staff Writer

As investigators completed the on-site investigation Tuesday of the Dec. 13 airplane crash just south of Baseline Road in the Bellevue Triangle, the identities of two pilots were released. Circumstances that led to the crash are still unknown, however.

Salmon Air pilots Fred Villanueva, 60, of Farmington, Utah, and co-worker Raymond Ingram, 32, flying in a Cessna 208, both died in the crash that occurred at about 10:20 a.m. Monday in Bill Sherbine's field about 8 miles south of Friedman Memorial Airport, said Coroner Russ Mikel.

Villanueva, the pilot in charge of the flight, was making a delivery under contract for UPS to the Hailey airport from Salt Lake City, said Salmon Air President, JoAnn Wolters. Ingram was getting a lift home to Salmon.

It is too early to determine the cause of the crash, but evidence from the crash scene has been secured in Boise, said Senior NTSB Safety Investigator Debra Eckrote.

"It was obvious that it crashed from uncontrolled attitude," Eckrote said, adding that eyewitnesses said they saw the plane wobble before it hit the ground.

Eckrote said she has interviewed other pilots who were flying at the time to learn more about weather conditions and will study the remains of the aircraft in more detail. She also said she has more interviews to complete and radar data to review before she can deliver a final report of facts to the National Transportation and Safety Board. She said she must also wait for aircraft maintenance records and Villanueva's pilot record, including health records. And autopsy and toxicological reports must be completed before NTSB can determine probable cause, a decision expected to take several months.

"We have a little bit of every thing, but not enough to draw conclusions," Eckrote said. "I have completed interviews with the control tower. It is sounding like normal procedures were followed. There were no emergency calls from the pilot."

Although Villanueva and Ingram were just hired by Salmon Air within the past year, the aviation community has been hit hard by the loss of the pilots, Wolters said.

"Fred is well-known in the flying community. We knew Fred in Salt Lake before he started flying for us," Wolters said. "Raymond started last May. He was a very good person. He flew in Alaska before he came to us. We are close to all our people in Salt Lake and Idaho. It does more emotionally than anything else."

Villanueva's wife of 31 years, Bobbie, told the Salt Lake Tribune that until going to work for Salmon Air two months ago, Villanueva worked for Ameriflight, a Burbank, Calif.-based cargo service.

The paper also reported that Villanueva was a conscientious objector who refused to bear arms during the conflict in Vietnam. He was drafted as an Army medic and awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart for pulling a soldier out of a tank under heavy fire. Despite being struck by shrapnel Villanueva continued assisting his comrades.

Already a private pilot, Villanueva continued his aviation training at Gillespie Field in San Diego after returning from Vietnam in the mid-1960s.

Villanueva is survived by his wife and two sons, Matthew, a Grand Canyon helicopter pilot and Mark, an Oakland, Calif., air traffic controller.

Ingram was raised in northern Utah and southern Colorado, where he graduated from Harribo High School in Colorado Springs. In 1998 Ingram attended flight school at Colorado Northwestern Community College in Rangely, Colo., where he placed first in a college flying contest and flew for Island Air in Kodiak, Alaska for a year.

His wife Julie Beth, his son Grant and his parents Joe and Ramona Ingram of Rangely survive him. Julie Beth is pregnant with their second child.

"We are working with the widows and children and trying to do the best we can," Wolters said.

An UPS spokesman said delivery contracts with Salmon Air are continuing and the company is working with shippers to replace any goods that were destroyed in the crash.

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