Aircraft crash victims recovered
Deputy Sweetwater County Coroner Travis Sanders, left, and Sweetwater County Fire District #1 firefighters at the scene of the May 18 crash which killed two people, including Gilmer Mickey, co-owner of Pinedale Natural Gas. Photo courtesy Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office.
Wreckage of the aircraft at the crash site. Photo courtesy Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office.
The Bell L4 helicopter that transported the recovery team to the crash site arriving at the staging area near South Pass, about 10 miles from the scene. Photo courtesy Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office.
Cause of plane crash is still unknown
by Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office
May 21, 2011
ROCK SPRINGS, WYOMING, May 21, 2011 - The bodies of two Colorado men, Gilmer Mickey, 55, of Englewood, and Bob Albert, also 55, of Fort Collins, were recovered at about 2:00 PM Saturday by personnel from the Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office, Sweetwater County Coroner’s Office, and Sweetwater County Fire District #1.
In a joint release issued today, Sheriff Rich Haskell, Coroner Dale Majhanovich, and District Fire Chief Jim Wamsley attributed the success of the mission to effective interagency cooperation.
Mickey, who was a pilot, and Albert took off from the Ralph Wenz Field Airport in Pinedale on the morning of May 18 in Mickey’s plane, a single-engine Bellanca Model 17-30A, bound for Fort Collins, and crashed 72 miles away in the rugged Oregon Buttes-Continental Peak area of northern Sweetwater County.
When family members in Colorado reported to authorities that the men were overdue, an air and ground search was mounted on the morning of May 19 involving sheriff’s deputies, County Emergency Management, the Civil Air Patrol, and County Search & Rescue volunteers.
Working with coordinates provided by the United States Air Force Rescue Coordination Center at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, searchers from the Sheriff’s Office and Sweetwater County Search & Rescue located the downed plane that day at about 12:15 PM in a remote area about 45 miles north of Rock Springs.
Officials were initially unable to remove the bodies of the two victims from the aircraft in the absence of special equipment, and severe weather and road conditions hindered operations sharply at the scene, with nearly every county and Search & Rescue vehicle becoming badly stuck in the snow and mud. Two chained-up County Road & Bridge graders and a track bulldozer were ultimately needed to extract the worst cases.
A number of people from Search & Rescue, the Sheriff’s Office, and the Coroner’s Office were compelled to spend the night at the scene in their vehicles. Some were able to make it out around dawn, and others not for hours later.
The impassable road conditions made necessary a different approach to returning to the scene, and around mid-day on Saturday a helicopter piloted by Josh Hellyer of Sky Aviation, based in Worland, flew Detective Mark Furman of the Sheriff’s Office, County Coroner Dale Majhanovich, Deputy County Coroner Travis Sanders, and Jake Ribordy, Chad Frericks, and Vince Lopez of Sweetwater County Fire District #1 to the scene, where the county firefighters used special extraction gear to gain access to the plane’s cockpit and free the bodies of Mickey and Albert.
Officials said the operation was completed and the scene cleared by 2:30 PM.
County investigators conferred Friday and Saturday with specialists from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board, the agencies which will now continue the investigation.
The cause of the crash is yet unknown
On Saturday, Sheriff Haskell repeated his strong recommendation against attempts to travel in the area of the crash near the Fremont County line, emphasizing the potentially dangerous snow and mud conditions.