A professional pilot fighting a Colorado wildfire reported being knocked out of the sky and made two final passes with multiple craft before he slammed into a highway in dramatic video footage released Wednesday by officials investigating the crash.
Kristina Walker said her husband, Greg Walker, was flying his single-engine plane westbound on a rain-slicked Colorado highway when he spotted smoke in the distance, according to the Floyd Hill Fire Department.
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The Forest Service had commandeered the plane for the fire response. Officials from the fire department released the footage to the media on Wednesday and investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board met with the Walker family to discuss the crash scene on Tuesday.
Greg Walker took off from Falcon Reservoir on the night of August 9, heading to the Richard P. Jones Wilderness Area about 70 miles southwest of Colorado Springs. Then, at approximately 9:30 p.m., Walker reported seeing and downing “significant” amounts of smoke. He turned and headed back to where he saw the smoke, but lost sight of his plane, the footage shows.
Four minutes later, the 9094729 Colorado Air Ranger began making two passes with multiple aircraft, one carrying a fire engine. One of the passes comes after the plane has stopped about a quarter mile above the road in the valley below.
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“He said he was immediately knocked out of the sky. At the point he comes to the ground, he knocked out of the sky again,” Donna Fahey, the deputy fire marshal for the Floyd Hill Fire Department, told CNN.
“The airplane does not leave much debris,” she added. “He also tells them he was seeing four different types of aircraft flying over him, so he knows what he’s doing.”
In the videos, a smaller, power-packing aircraft flies over the plane but stays far enough away to prevent any damage. Investigators hope to find information such as those pilots’ markings and cockpit voice recorder devices, Lt. Jim Alderdice of the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team said Wednesday.
Greg Walker’s body was recovered after Tuesday’s recovery effort but the cause of death for the pilot remains unknown. Investigators are still waiting for final autopsy results, Fahey said.
“They are still waiting for all the toxicology,” she added. “We’re running out of time. We’re down to a tenth of a second for a lot of the toxicology tests.”