A family of four from Fort Collins, Colorado was killed when the private, single-engine plane they were in crashed north of Glenwood Springs, Colorado, on September 17, 2017. Weather conditions delayed search efforts to find the downed aircraft, but once emergency personnel reached the site, they realized there were no survivors. Now, their loved ones are left to pick up the pieces as investigators determined what caused the small plane to crash.
Cirrus SR22 Plane Bound for Moab, Utah
Reports indicate the Makepeace family (a husband, wife and twin 10-year-old children) departed from Northern Colorado Regional Airport in Loveland in their privately owned Cirrus SR22 with plans to travel to Moab, Utah. Jeff Makepeace, the husband and father of the family, piloted the plane.
It is not clear what time the plane left the runway at Northern Colorado Regional that Friday, but the aircraft was not far from Baxter Peak, near Rifle, Colorado, when it lost radar contact at approximately 10:00 p.m.
The Garfield County Sheriff's Office received word of the disappearance, and Civil Air Patrol and Classic Air were asked to assist with an aerial search. Heavy low-hanging clouds, however, prevented the aerial search from beginning immediately, and officials didn't discover the crash site until 11:37 a.m. the following day. The site was spotted by air, and crews were able to land nearby, allowing them to confirm that there were no survivors. The Garfield County Sheriff's Office said, "a large debris field was identified" at the site.
Officials say the crash site is located about 15 miles north of Glenwood Springs.
Colorado sheriff: Family of 4 killed in private plane crash https://t.co/GnXdPzELye pic.twitter.com/fkgtxl5UQd— The Gazette (@csgazette) September 16, 2017
Ground crews with the Sheriff's Office recovered the bodies of the deceased. They will also assist the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the early stages of the investigation.
What Caused the Fatal Colorado Plane Crash?
The investigation into the fatal plane crash in Glenwood Springs is just beginning, but NTSB and FAA officials will look at all angles, including a possible engine failure or equipment malfunction, Jeff Makepeace's aptitude as a pilot, and the weather conditions in the area at the time of the crash.
Reports from The Aspen Times say that the weather in Glenwood Springs was poor the evening of the crash and that lightning had delayed Glenwood High's football game that night by an hour. A separate 9News report says that radar from Friday night indicated thunderstorms in the entire stretch the Cirrus SR22 flew from Fort Collins to Glenwood Springs.
Greg Feith, an aviation analyst for 9News, questioned the Makepeace's decision to depart when they did.
Makepeace Held a Pilot's License Since Spring
Caleb Makepeace, Jeff Makepeace's brother, said in an interview with The Denver Post that Jeff Makepeace had earned his pilot's license this year, and FAA records indicate that he obtained it on March 1, 2017.
He owned the Cirrus SR22 that the family was flying to Moab in at the time of the crash.
Fort Collins’ Makepeace Family On Board When Plane Went Down
The surviving relatives of the Makepeace family have identified them as the deceased and issued a statement lamenting their passing. They asked for privacy as they struggle to cope with their loss.
"Our family's hearts have been broken by this tragic accident," a statement from the Makepeace relatives said. "Our grief cannot be defined and will be prolonged. But our memories of this amazing family will last forever."
Forty-seven-year-old Jeff Makepeace owned Lind's Plumbing and Heating, and his wife, 45-year-old Jennifer Makepeace, was a homemaker. The couple had a set of twin 10-year-olds: Addison, a daughter, and Benjamin, a son. All four family members were on board the plane, as well as the family dog.
Jeff was born in Naples, New York, and Jennifer in Fontana, California. They had been married for 10 years. Caleb Makepeace said they were a fitting couple.
"[Jennifer] was very outgoing, a good match for Jeff, because she was adventurous," he said in an interview with The Denver Post. "If he wanted to go climb a mountain, she was right there with him."
Caleb Makepeace said the twins, who had turned 10 not long before the accident, were opposites of sort, with Benjamin being mechanically inclined and always on the go, while Addison was an "old soul" who enjoyed watching "Little House on the Prairie" and baking.
Cirrus Planes Plagued with Problems
Accidents involving the Cirrus SR22 and other Cirrus planes are not uncommon, and the company has faced both lawsuits and expert criticism in their making and selling of the planes. In 2011, there were 16 fatal accidents in Cirrus SR20s and Cirrus SR22s, despite the aircraft having airframe parachutes and up-to-date safety features. Previous Cirrus plane crashes, like the one that took the lives of an Oklahoma family in Houston last year, have kept safety questions at the forefront of the conversation.
Man killed in crash near Sonoma Skypark of Cirrus SR22,plane equipped w/parachute, was 38yo William Sachs Goldman per @sonomasheriff.3 hurt pic.twitter.com/C3G006kAVP— Henry K. Lee (@henrykleeKTVU) July 14, 2017
A Cirrus SR22 plane crash on July 13, 2017, took the life of the pilot and injured his two children and their nanny, who were also on board. The investigation into the crash indicates the pilot utilized the manual parachute deployment feature to try to prevent the plane's crash. An attorney who had participated in a separate case against Cirrus said the issue with the plane isn't the parachute, but that "[Cirrus'] aerodynamic characteristics are awful in stall."