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Pilot dies in single-engine air tanker crash near wildfire burning in Colorado

single-engine tanker crash estes park.jpg
Larimer County Sheriff's Office vehicle
Posted at 7:41 AM, Nov 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-17 09:43:25-05

ESTES PARK, Colo. — A pilot died Tuesday when a single-engine air tanker crashed south of Estes Park, Colorado, near the area where the Kruger Rock Fire is burning.

The Larimer County Sheriff’s Office confirmed it first received reports of the plane crash at 6:47 p.m. MT near Hermit Park, which is about 4.5 miles from downtown Estes Park. search teams located the crash site near the south end of Hermit Park at about 9:49 p.m.

The sheriff's office confirmed the pilot was the only occupant of the plane. The pilot has not been identified, but the AT802 Air Tractor was owned by the private company CO Fire Aviation.

A KMGH crew spotted a plane flying near the fire shortly after 6 p.m. and ABC News confirmed the tail number on the plane matched the tail number of the single-engine air tanker that went down.

FlightAware, an aircraft tracking website, showed a single-engine air tanker that left Northern Colorado Regional Airport in Loveland around 6:15 p.m. and was last tracked in the Hermit Park area around 6:30 p.m. Wind gusts at the time were 40 to 50 mph.

A spokesperson for the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center also confirmed Larimer County Search and Rescue reached out for help finding the plane. It requested a single rotor chopper at first light or sooner. Civil Air Patrol was also helping. It's unclear if they'll still be assisting now that the plane has been located.

ABC News has also learned the single-engine air tanker is flown by a private company typically contracted through the state. However, it was reportedly flying for Larimer County on Tuesday.

Conor Cahill, a spokesperson for Gov. Jared Polis' office, released the following statement: "Our prayers are with the pilot, their family, their aviation family and the firefighting community."

Rep. Joe Neguse also released a statement: "Keeping the brave pilot and his family in my thoughts and prayers — and all of the brave first responders and firefighters protecting Estes Park and our entire community."

The investigation into the crash will be led by the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.

This story was originally published by Blayke Roznowski at KMGH.