• Original Reporting
  • Sources Cited
Original Reporting This article contains new, firsthand information uncovered by its reporter(s). This includes directly interviewing sources and research / analysis of primary source documents.
Sources Cited As a news piece, this article cites verifiable, third-party sources which have all been thoroughly fact-checked and deemed credible by the Newsroom in accordance with the Civil Constitution.
In this image provided by Stephanie Stamos, a small plane flies closely over a boat in a Northern Colorado reservoir before it crashed near Fort Collins, Colo., Sunday Sept. 11, 2022. Law-enforcement officials said two people in the single-engine plane survived the crash with minor injuries. Photographer Stephanie Stamos who was at the reservoir outside Fort Collins took photos of the plane fly near boaters and said the plane looked unstable and that the aircraft's wheels almost touched a boat. (Stephanie Stamos via AP)

A pilot who buzzed low over a northern Colorado reservoir last fall, with the plane’s wheels almost touching a boat before crashing, is facing criminal charges for his reckless flying, the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office said Monday. 

Investigators are looking for Ahmed El-Kaddah, who is accused of flying the single-engine plane over Horsetooth Reservoir before it crashed in the nearby mountains, the sheriff’s office said in a news release. They found the pilot and passenger with minor injuries, but believe El-Kaddah left the country shortly after the crash and has not returned. 

Witnesses, including a photographer who captured the plane flying low over the reservoir, told the sheriff’s office the plane looked “unsteady” and that the wheels were almost on top of a boat. They saw him fly toward several boats before turning west toward the mountains and crashing.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Authority also investigated the Sept. 11 crash and said that it was “not due to mechanical malfunctions or anomalies.”

“The fact that someone would show such reckless disregard for the lives of others is concerning, but it’s even more disturbing on a date that holds so much pain and significance for our country,” Sheriff John Feyen said in a statement. “The lack of legal accountability is frustrating to say the least, but in this and every case, we’ll continue to support victims and hold suspects accountable within the confines of the law.” 

According to the NTSB report, statements provided by the pilot were inconsistent with recovered flight data. 

El-Kaddah, who is a flight instructor, told investigators he reduced the power of the plane to get lower, so that his brother could “observe more of the scenery,” according to the NTSB report. As the plane got lower, the plane began to malfunction making it difficult for him to gain altitude, he said. 

The FBI determined that the pilot’s actions didn’t meet the criteria for federal charges.

El-Kaddah faces five counts of menacing and six counts of reckless endangerment, all misdemeanors, the sheriff’s office said. 

Olivia Prentzel covers breaking news and a wide range of other important issues impacting Coloradans for The Colorado Sun, where she has been a staff writer since 2021. At The Sun, she has covered wildfires, criminal justice, the environment,...