Walden, CO Airplane Crash in Blizzard, Dec 1978

Plane crash victims survived blowing snow and freezing winds

WALDEN, Colo. (AP) - Passengers who survived a crash-landing in the Rockies say they stuffed a wedding dress into a hole in the wrecked plane to try to keep out blowing snow and freezing winds as they waited 11 hours for rescuers.

Searchers on snowmobiles followed a high-voltage line knocked out by the crash to reach the 21 survivors 10,000 feet up in the mountains Tuesday morning. One woman died in the crash.

Temperatures dipped into the teens and winds swept the mountain at 35 mph after the twin-turboprop de Havilland Otter went down on a Rocky Mountain Airways flight from the resort town of Steamboat Springs to Denver.

STEVEN BLUSCHER, commander of the Colorado Civil Air Patrol, said the wind-chill index during the night reached 50 below zero.

"If you'd been up there and seen the weather we had, you'd be amazed that they survived," said Grand County Sheriff HOUSTON HENDERSON, one of the rescuers.

One passenger, JOE GARBINA, 30, of Bloomington, Minn., said one gaping hole in the fuselage was plugged with the bridal gown, found amid the scrambled luggage.

Capt. SCOTT ALAN KLOPFENSTEIN radioed 15 minutes after takeoff at 6:55 p. m. Monday that he was having trouble with ice and was heading back to Steamboat Springs.

DENNIS HEAP, vice president of the airline, said that is all that's known about what caused the crash. He said authorities hoped to interview KLOPFENSTEIN, listed in critical condition at a Denver hospital, sometime today.

Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board investigators are expected to announce their findings today, said FAA spokesman LOU LOMBARD.

HEAP, nothing the large number of survivors, expressed confidence in the airline's Otter fleet and said other craft would not be grounded.
Except for an 8-month-old boy who escaped unscratched and a 20-year-old man who was treated and released, all the survivors were hospitalized, five in critical condition.

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