2 Planes collide near Rock Springs, killing 3
by Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office
August 11, 2008
A Rock Springs man and two midwesterners died in a mid-air aircraft collision near Rock Springs on Sunday, August 10, 2008.
In a special release issued today, Sweetwater County Sheriff Rich Haskell said that Dave Knezovich, 54, of Rock Springs was the pilot and lone occupant of one of the aircraft, a high-wing, single-engine Cessna 172. The second aircraft, containing Ralph Otto, 67, of Wilmette, Illinois, and 67-year-old C. Michael Downey of Columbus, Ohio, was a single-engine Cirrus SR22.
The collision occurred over North Baxter Basin about 5.2 miles northwest of the Rock Springs - Sweetwater County Airport and approximately 5.7 miles northeast of Rock Springs. Officials said debris is scattered on the ground over an area in excess of half a mile long.
Haskell said Knezovich, who was on a routine student solo flight, had taken off from the Rock Springs airport and had been in the air for about one hour when the collision occurred. Otto and Downey took off from Polson, Montana, about 8:59 AM and were approaching the Rock Springs airport, their destination, to land.
Otto and Downey were in normal radio contact with regional air traffic controllers in Salt Lake City just prior to the crash.
Haskell said Sheriff’s Office detectives met this morning with investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board - the agencies that will be heading up the investigation - then accompanied them to the crash scene, where security had been maintained throughout the night by volunteers from Sweetwater County Search & Rescue.
Sheriff’s officers became aware of the situation when calls began coming in around 12:26 PM on Sunday concerning an "explosion in the sky" northeast of Rock Springs. One witness said he heard the explosion and looked up to see a plume of smoke that reminded him of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986. Next he said he could clearly see the burning tail section of one aircraft spiraling to earth.
Haskell said county detectives have been working closely with officials from the Sweetwater County Coroner’s Office, County Emergency Management, and airport officials since the collision. Troopers of the Wyoming Highway Patrol assisted with traffic control as detectives began their scene processing efforts.
"The cause of the collision is unknown at this point," said Haskell. "Naturally, determining that cause will be the focus of the FAA/NTSB investigation."
For more information about the crash, contact Detective Dick Blust, Jr., Public Information Officer, Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office, 307-922-5294 - 307-350-4016, firstname.lastname@example.org