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Plane lost engine power before 2016 crash in southwest Colorado that killed 3, investigators say

The National Transportation Safety Board says it doesn’t know, however, what caused the issue that led to the wreck more than three years ago

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LThe wreckage of a Cessna 320 that crashed near Creede’s airport on June 15, 2016, killed all three people aboard. (Provided by the National Transportation Safety Board)

Loss of engine power caused a small propeller plane to crash as it approached an airport in southwest Colorado in 2016, killing all three people who were aboard, including a 17-year-old boy from Longmont. 

But in its final report on the wreck, more than three years after it happened, the National Transportation Safety Board said it could not determine what caused both engines on the Cessna 320 to decrease their thrust.

“Test-runs of both engines revealed no evidence of any mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation,” the agency wrote in the report released earlier this month. 

Jere Ferrill, 51, of Castle Rock, and Mykhayl Sutton, 28, and David Louwers, 17, both of Longmont, died in the June 15, 2016, wreck near the airport in the small town of Creede. The plane went down not far from the runway.

Ferrill was piloting the plane and apparently had noticed a problem in one of the plane’s engines earlier on the day of the crash, according to the NTSB report. The trio had stopped in Buena Vista for lunch and then took off again, only to return about 15 minutes later to figure out the problem. 

Ferrill opted to end an aerial photography mission the aircraft was on for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, agreeing in a conversation with management at the company he was working for to return to the plane’s base in Longmont. 

But the NTSB says the aircraft apparently continued to fly in the opposite direction of the Front Range to at least one more aerial survey point. In the last two minutes of the plane’s final flight, its speed fluctuated drastically.

Witnesses who saw the Cessna just before it crashed said it didn’t appear to be correctly positioned or high enough to land at Creede’s airport.

“Given the evidence, it is likely the engines experienced a loss of power and that the pilot subsequently lost airplane control during the descent to the airport for landing, which resulted in impact with terrain,” the report said. “The reason for the dual loss of engine power could not be determined based on available evidence.”