Tusayan, AZ Tour Plane Crashes, Feb 1995


Tusayan, Ariz. (AP) -- When forest ranger Sherrie Collins reached the crashed tour plane south of the Grand Canyon, she found the wings torn off, the burning fuselage ripped in two and the nose crumpled around a tree.
She was mentally prepared for what she saw inside; the bodies of the pilot and seven Taiwanese passengers, some scorched beyond recognition. What surprised her last night was outside the twin-engine Piper Navaho; two burned young women moaning in pain in a foreign language.
"When you look at the wreckage, you go, 'How could anyone survive this?'" said Collins, a paramedic and veteran of wilderness rescues.
"The fact that they're alive is incredible."
The two survivors were in critical condition today.
The Las Vegas Airlines flight crashed shortly after takeoff from Grand Canyon Airport in Tusayan, a tourist town a few miles south of the main entrance to Grand Canyon National Park.
The pilot reported engine trouble and apparently was trying to return to the airport, said Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Fred O'Donnell in Los Angeles.
Collins said airport tower officials told her they saw a puff of smoke, then a fireball. The plane crashed two miles from the airport amid Ponderosa pines in the Kaibab National Forest.
The Tusayan airport is the hub of the busy Grand Canyon tour industry, which carried 800,000 passengers a year by plane and helicopter.
There have been at least 11 fatal crashes of planes and helicopters at the canyon or on canyon tours since 1980, killing 87 people.
Congress has imposed restrictions on air tours over the canyon, in part because of safety concerns.
An employee at Las Vegas Airlines' office at North Las Vegas Airport refused to comment or bring a company official to the phone.
A team from the National Transportation Safety Board was to begin its investigation at dawn today. The bodies were left overnight in the plane. The names of the passengers were withheld until relatives could be notified. The passenger manifest listed all passengers as Taiwanese Nationals, according to officials with the National Park Service and the sheriff's department.
The dead pilot was identified as ALVIA W. MOORE II, a 26-year-old male Air Force veteran from Henderson, Nev., said sheriff's Capt. Sam Whitted.

Garden City Telegram Kansas 1995-02-14