KUSA — Two men who were four-wheeling just outside of Leadville Friday helped solve a three-month-long mystery and bring closure to an Oregon pilot’s family and the first responders who have been looking for him since April.
Pat Wester and his son-in-law Jon Cook were on a day trip on Mosquito Pass when something caught their eyes.
“Just a beautiful open area,” Wester said. “And I saw a white spot. Something that, it looked kind of like snow, at first, when I looked at it, but it was way too low to be snow.”
What he saw was the wreckage of a Cessna 210 single-engine plane that went off the radar on April. It was traveling between the Erie Municipal Airport and Richfield, Utah.
The lone pilot, 67-year-old Quentin Aschoff of Bend, Oregon, did not have a flight plan, and the plane did not have an operating transponder.
Search and rescue crews looked for him for nearly two weeks to no avail. During the initial search, 10 aircraft scoured 120 square miles of land trying to find the missing pilot and his plane.
That search concentrated around Kenosha Pass and along Interstate 70 to Copper Mountain, partly because Aschoff didn't file a flight plan.
"We searched with 24 sorties, 10 aircraft, all the way to the Utah border," said Civil Air Patrol Lt. Col. Mike Daniels.
Photos: Four-wheelers find plane crash wreckage in Colorado mountains
The morning Aschoff disappeared, there was a snowstorm in the mountains, with wind gusts 40 to 50 miles per hour.
“It looked like the tail had, kind of, folded back on the rest of the plane from an impact standpoint, and said ‘this looks bad, there’s no way somebody survived this,’” Cook said.
Aschoff’s body was removed from the plane and identified using fingerprints on Friday.
"It's not just the family that needs closure,” Cook said. “It's Civil Air Patrol, it's Colorado Search and Rescue, it's the sheriff's office, it's other people who have spent a couple weeks of their lives and saying they didn't get the closure for this.”
"We feel that we're part of that family searching for one of their own, and when we're not able to find the aircraft and the individual, it's quite disheartening," said Daniels. "However, it does bring closure to know that we did finally find the aircraft through these hikers and now the family knows what happened."