Authorities ID Cessna Crash Victims


Sheriff’s deputies in San Juan County, Colo., on Tuesday identified the five people who were killed when a plane bound for Amarillo crashed Sunday afternoon.

Pilot Harold Joseph Raggio and Steven Dale Wilkinson, both of Newberry Springs, Calif.; Rosalinda Leslie, of Hesperian, Calif., and Michael Lyle Riley, of Barstow, Calif., were killed when the private plane crashed in the San Juan Mountains north of Silverton, Colo.

Amarillo was an intended refueling station for the flight, said Alan Hamm of Dagget Aviation in Dagget, Calif.

The flight had departed from Barstow en route to San Antonio.

National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Peter Knudson said no one survived when the twin-engine Cessna 310-H went down about 2 p.m. Sunday.

Knudson said there were two pilots in the plane and both were only rated to fly a single-engine plane, not a twin-engine plane like the Cessna 310-H.

“It’s not unusual to have two pilots. But you do have someone flying a plane that they are not rated for,” Knudson said.

“The pilot was flying VFR (visual flight rules), where he was just looking outside the window and looking at the ground.”

Attempts to identify which person onboard was the other pilot were not successful Tuesday.

Knudson said that no flight plan was filed and the pilots were not in contact with air traffic control, so there was no distress call.

The plane crashed at an altitude of 11,500 feet and had a wreckage field of 300 yards.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration registry, the plane was a fixed wing multi-engine Cessna 310-H that was manufactured in 1963.

The plane belonged to Raggio.

John Frank, executive director of Cessna Pilots Association, said the plane had an altitude ceiling of about 11,000 feet.

“That’s as high as it can go until the air gets thin, and the engines generate less power the higher you go,” Frank said.

“With summertime warm temperatures, the warmer the day and the warmer the air, the lower the altitude you can get to. If they had gone further south near Gallup, N.M., that area had lower terrain.”

Frank said that the 1963 model of the Cessna 310-H does not have a turbocharger that would help it fly in high-
altitude situations.

A pilot who is only rated for a single-engine plane is not necessarily ready to fly a twin-engine plane, Frank said.

“If neither pilot had a multi-engine rating, they were illegal and they probably didn’t have the appropriate training and shouldn’t have been doing what they were doing,” Frank said.

“If you are trained properly and you know what you are doing, you can have an engine failure and get yourself to an airport safely. But there’s a saying that if you lose an engine on a light twin, the remaining engine will take you directly to the scene of an accident.”

San Juan County officials said the crash site was in rugged and remote mountainous terrain on the side of Bear Mountain near the San Juan, San Miguel, and Dolores County, Colo., lines.

The debris indicated a high-speed impact with little hope for survival, officials said.

A team of four rescuers was transported by helicopter to look for signs of life and to secure the crash site overnight.

The rescuers were able to confirm the victims’ identities and bring home their remains with the help of an Air National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter out of the High-Altitude ARNG Aviation Training Site in Eagle, Colo., authorities said.

In 2013, Raggio was recognized by the FAA through inclusion in the FAA Airmen Certification Database.

According to an article in the Aviation Business Gazette, Raggio had “met or exceeded the high educational, licensing and medical standards” established by the FAA.

The investigation has been turned over to NTSB and FAA officials.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Story provided by Amarillo Globe News.