An October 2020 plane crash near Telluride that left a young couple dead days after they got married was likely caused by the pilot’s decision to fly his single-engine propeller plane into an area with tall mountains before gaining enough altitude, according to federal air crash investigators.
The National Transportation Safety Board, in a final report on the Oct. 5, 2020, crash that killed Costas John Sivyllis, 30, and his wife, Lindsey Vogelaar, 33, was probably caused by Sivyllis’ “loss of control during the climb” and “decision to not climb to a higher altitude before proceeding over high terrain.”
The couple were traveling in a 1964 Beechcraft S35 Bonanza. The crash happened at an altitude of 11,823 feet on Black Bear Pass, which is just southeast of Telluride.
“The surrounding terrain to the north, east, and south was higher than the accident site elevation, with peaks ranging from about 12,000 to 14,000 feet,” said the final NTSB report, which was issued Dec. 14.
The NTSB said an analysis by its investigators found no precrash mechanical issues with the plane.
“Postaccident examination found no preimpact anomalies with the airframe, engine, flight controls and propeller,” the report said. “Flight control continuity was confirmed from the cockpit to all flight control surfaces.”
No distress call was received before the crash.
The San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office said Sivyllis and Vogelaar, who had eloped in Telluride, were heading back to Florida at the time of the crash. They had taken off from Telluride’s airport shortly before the wreck.
Sivyllis, a graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida, was a pilot for United Airlines, where Vogelaar, who was born in Denver, worked as a flight attendant.
MLive, a news website in Michigan, reported the couple met on a flight to Europe in 2016.
“Costas loved Lindsey with every fiber of his being and loved every aspect of Lindsey and her entire life,” Vogelaar’s family said, according to MLive. “They could’ve lived anywhere as long as they were together. They were citizens of the world. Lindsey’s home was wherever the plane landed. They had roots in Florida, but they were true citizens of the world. They were supportive of each other in every aspect of their lives.”
A number of fatal plane crashes in Colorado’s high country have been blamed on pilots’ unfamiliarity with mountain flying in small aircraft. The NTSB nodded to that fact in its report.
“Pilots with limited or no training in mountain flying can be surprised about their aircraft’s different performance at high density altitude, often leading to serious or fatal accidents,” the report said. “Wind and other weather phenomena interacting with mountainous terrain often lead unsuspecting pilots into situations that are beyond their capabilities.”