NBC executive’s son feared dead in crash
MONTROSE ” The 14-year-old son of NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol was presumed dead Monday after a fiery jet crash that killed two crewmen and injured the executive and his older son.
The aircraft with six people on board crashed in light snow and fog Sunday while taking off from the airport outside this small town in southern Colorado, 185 miles southwest of Denver. Federal authorities opened their investigation but had no immediate word on the cause of the crash.
Ebersol and his two sons, Charles, 21, and Edward, 14, were flying home from California, a network source told The Associated Press. Ebersol’s wife, actress Susan Saint James, had gotten off in Montrose and was not on board.
Matt Eilts, Montrose County chief deputy coroner, said a search had turned up no sign of Edward, called Teddy by family and friends.
“We believe at this time that the boy has probably perished within the crash,” Eilts said.
Arnold Scott, the lead investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, said heavy equipment will be needed to see if the teen’s remains are in the wreckage.
“It’s going to be a while because unfortunately a lot of the wreckage is still covered with snow,” Scott said not far from the snow-covered field dotted with knee-high weeds. The wreckage, covered with a black tarpaulin, is about 20 yards from a cattle pen.
The Ebersols were returning from a family gathering in Los Angeles, where Charles’ school, Notre Dame, played a football game Saturday night against Southern California, where another son, 18-year-old Willie, is a freshman, the network source said.
After dropping off Saint James, the Ebersols were planning to drop Charles off at Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., before flying to the East Coast.
Witnesses said it appeared the plane, a CL-602 Challenger registered to Jet Alliance of Millville, N.J., never got off the ground. It ran off the runway and skidded across a two-lane road, punching through fences on either side before bursting into flames.
Doug Percival, a driver at a local towing service, said he was one of the first to arrive at the scene 100 yards from the runway.
“(B)y the time I got halfway there I heard a kid (Charles Ebersol) screaming for help, saying his brother was still on the plane,” Percival told The Montrose Daily Press. “He came and grabbed me from the side and said, ‘Please, my brother is still in the plane. He was in the fourth row.”‘
Percival said he couldn’t get to the plane because of the flames, and a hissing sound forced him and others back before there was an explosion.
“By the time I left they were wrapping him (Charles Ebersol) up in blankets and checking him out and then the ambulance got there,” he told the Daily Press. “I got back here (to Pro Tow) and I just sat here trying to regain reality.”
The FAA said the pilot and a flight attendant were killed. The county coroner’s office identified the victims as Luis Alberto Polanco Espaillat, 50, of the Dominican Republic and Warren T. Richardson III, 36, of Coral Gables, Fla., but did not say which was the pilot.
The co-pilot was hospitalized in Denver, while Dick and Charles Ebersol were hospitalized in Grand Junction. Eilts said the co-pilot was in critical condition, but hospital officials in both cities declined comment.
A snowstorm had eased up before the plane prepared to take off, but there was no immediate word if weather was a factor in the crash.
Steve McLaughlin of MTJ Air Services, which deices private planes at the airport, said MTJ did not deice Ebersol’s plane before it took off.
Airport Manager Scott Brownlee said he did not know whether the plane had been deiced and Scott, the NTSB official, said such a decision is left up to the pilot at smaller airports.
The National Weather Service said the temperature hovered just below freezing when the plane took off.
The plane was registered to Jet Alliance of Millville, N.J. The company offered its condolences but said it had no additional information.
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