Two small planes collide in air

October 22, 2008 3:19:20 PM PDT
A sheriff's department plane carrying inmates collided with another small craft in the air over western Colorado on Wednesday, but both landed safely and no injuries were reported, authorities said. "This is truly one of those miracles," said Allen Kenitzer of the Federal Aviation Administration. "Usually with a midair collision you have very serious damage and very serious injuries, if you have survivors at all."

One of the planes was a Mesa County Sheriff's Department single-engine Cessna 210 carrying two inmates, a deputy and a pilot. The other was a single-engine Cessna 180 with two people aboard. The cause of the crash is being investigated.

The 180 is registered to Miel del Rio Grande Inc. in Monte Vista. Kat Siglinger, an employee, said he spoke after the crash with company owners John Haefeli and Thomas Haefeli, who were on the plane.

"They told me the collision tore off their tail," she said. "And that was at 10,000 feet in the air. They were pretty relieved."

FAA spokesman Mike Fergus said he could not release radar records indicating how high the planes were flying because they are part of the investigation.

The planes collided about 15 miles southeast of Grand Junction and 190 miles west of Denver, Fergus said. The sheriff's plane landed at Grand Junction Regional Airport and the other in a remote area about 10 miles south of the airport.

Sheriff's spokesman Chuck Warner said the inmates were being transferred to the custody of the state prison system. The plane had taken off from Grand Junction, he said, but he didn't know where it was headed.

The plane made a hard landing back at the airport and suffered front-end damage either from the collision or the landing, the sheriff's office said.

The other plane came to rest on its top amid sagebrush and scrub oak at the foot of the towering Grand Mesa. A medical helicopter crew spotted it, landed and determined that both people were all right, Warner said.

It is still unclear where the Cessna 180's flight originated and where it was headed, Fergus said.

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