Witnesses of the the fatal crash of the specially equipped firefighting plane battling the Kruger Rock Fire said they saw the plane roll inverted before it nose-dived into the steep, wooded mountainside near Estes Park.
Those and other details of the Nov. 16 crash that killed pilot Marc Thor Olson were announced Wednesday in a preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board. The full report is not expected for months.
The report stated video showed the Air Tractor AT-802A plane's wings rocking as it approached the intended drop location during what is believed to be the first fixed-wing aircraft night firefighting mission in the state.
One of the witnesses, who was in radio communication with the pilot, stated he did not hear the pilot transmit problems with the airplane nor make any distress calls prior to the accident.
Two witnesses who saw the plane roll inverted did not see it descend into terrain. It took searchers about three hours to find the wreckage, which was on the border of Roosevelt National Forest and Larimer County-managed Hermit Park Open Space about 2 miles southeast of Estes Park.
Pilot procession: Crowds turn out in honor of Marc Thor Olson
The report stated the plane wreckage was upright and displayed "features of a low-speed, nose-down impact with sloping and wooded terrain'' and "there was no ground scarring that preceded the wreckage.''
Olson told his ground crew the air was turbulent and he was going to make one more pass before returning to the Northern Colorado Regional Airport in Loveland when the plane crashed around 6:36 p.m.
The National Weather Service reported strong, gusting winds at the time of the crash.
Olson's body was removed from the wreckage Nov. 17 and the plane wreckage was removed by helicopter Monday for further examination.
The 59-year-old Olson had been a pilot with Fort Morgan-based CO Fire Aviation since 2017. The company said Olson had flown for 42 years and was a highly decorated veteran of the Army and Air Force with 32 years of service, amassing more than 8,000 flight hours with 1,000 hours of night vision goggle flying, including in combat and in civilian life.
CO Fire Aviation is among a handful of pioneering companies using new technology to fight wildfires at night.
The 147-acre Kruger Rock Fire, which started Nov. 16, was 100% contained Nov. 20.
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This article originally appeared on Fort Collins Coloradoan: Estes Park plane crash: Preliminary report released from NTSB