[Editor’s Note: We received an anonymous tip regarding this crash. Thank you for your contribution. This plane crash in Colorado was attributed to pilot error.]
Two Vancouver, Washington, residents, pilot Martin Ryan, aged 23, and Janet Bonneville, 19, died in a crash approximately one mile southwest of Willow Park on The Fall River Road on August 16, 1977. Martin Ryan was a member of the Vancouver Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol, then in the Oregon Wing.
Martin was piloting a Maule M4, N4132C. The accident happened about 6:30 PM on Tuesday, August 16, 1977. The accident report indicated the pilot was attempting to out climb rising terrain. The crash site is about 10300 feet msl, near Estes, Colorado.
In newspaper accounts, Chief Ranger Dave Essex stated that the couple had been visiting friends in the Denver area and left Jefferson County Airport at 5:30 pm on Saturday.
The plane was a Maule, a two-seat, single engine aircraft. Several climbers directly across the drainage, along with ranger Milton Madden, witnessed the crash. They stated that the plane flew westbound toward Fall River Pass. It did not circle to gain altitude, but flew directly toward the pass. As it approached the higher altitudes, it seemed to slow considerably. Several witnesses thought the pilot attempted to land on the Fall River Road.
Unfortunately, a wing clipped a tree, forcing it hard to the left and the plane crashed into a rock and caught fire on impact. The likely factors contributing to the accident were the fact that the plane was flying too low and had insufficient power to lift it over the ridge and unfamiliarity with the terrain by the pilot. The plane may have been overloaded.