Investigation Continues At Wreckage Found Monday
Rob Finfrock, Aero-News.Net
ANN REALTIME UPDATE 03.11.09 1245 MDT: The investigation into why a small, single-engine aircraft crashed in the East Mountain region of central New Mexico early Monday has been complicated by reports a second aircraft, that reportedly took off at around the same time from a residential airpark near Edgewood, is also unaccounted for.
KOB-4 reports two aircraft departed from Sandia Airpark Estates East (1N1) at approximately 5:30 am local time Monday. One of those planes crashed soon after -- about 11 nautical miles from the airport, in reported heavy snow conditions -- claiming the lives of the two men onboard.
Officials stated both occupants of that plane were commuters heading to their jobs in Los Alamos, about 50 nm from Edgewood. One victim has been tentatively identified as Randy Rupert, owner of a two-seat Grumman AA-1B.
Late Monday, local media reports stated Rupert was one of four people who regularly commuted by air from 1N1 to their jobs in Los Alamos. Initial reports indicated the two others in that group opted to drive to Los Alamos instead on Monday, due to the wintry conditions; it is not known whether those people are now believed to have been on the missing airplane.
ANN Managing Editor Rob Finfrock lives in Albuquerque, and will continue to follow this story as it progresses. Stay tuned.
0001 EDT: Two men reportedly flying to their jobs at Los Alamos National Laboratories in northern New Mexico were killed Monday when their aircraft crashed in wintry conditions about 20 miles ENE of Albuquerque.
KRQE-13 reports the aircraft, type unreported, impacted terrain near the intersection of New Mexico highways 14 and 344, south of the community of Golden in the foothills of the San Pedro mountains.
Deputies with the New Mexico State Patrol say the aircraft departed Edgewood, NM bound for Los Alamos. No flight plan was filed, but officials said the occupants regularly commuted to their jobs at LANL. Residents in the area said they often heard the aircraft fly overhead in the early morning hours.
After two months of severe drought conditions, many areas of central New Mexico received the first measurable precipitation of the year Monday morning. Heavy snow was falling and ceilings were low in the area when the accident occurred, according to officials, who added the plane may have been turning back towards the origination point when it crashed.
KOAT-7 identified the pilot as Randy Rupert. FAA records show a 1971 Grumman AA-1B Trainer registered to a Randal Rupert, with an Edgewood address. Officials have not released the identity of the passenger.
The aircraft reportedly departed Sandia Airpark Estates East (1N1), on a northerly course to Los Alamos Municipal Airport (LAM). The accident site lies directly along that path, approximately 11 nautical miles from 1N1.
A witness called police just after 6:00 am MDT to report a possible forest fire; crews were on scene within the hour, and found the charred wreckage of a small single-engine aircraft. The plane's N-number and other identifying characteristics were rendered unrecognizable by the wreckage and post-impact fire.
"It's pretty clear that the airplane crashed pretty abruptly. There's a small scene, there was a fire, and the remains of the airplane are pretty charred," Department of Public Safety spokesman Peter Olsen told KOAT-7.