GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. -- NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol and his college-aged son emerged from the fiery wreckage of a corporate jet after it crashed during takeoff and burst into flames, killing two crew members.
Ebersol's younger son was presumed dead, a coroner's official said Monday.
The 18-seat charter jet with six people on board crashed Sunday morning at Montrose Regional Airport in southwest Colorado, not far from the Telluride Ski Area. A heavy snowstorm had lightened up before the plane prepared to depart for South Bend, Ind., where Ebersol's son Charles is a senior at Notre Dame.
A witness said the impact ripped the cockpit from the fuselage, and that Charles Ebersol helped his 57-year-old father to safety through the front of the plane.
A second son, 14-year-old Edward, was missing, Denver NBC affiliate KUSA-TV reported. The station said crews searched by
helicopter and on the ground, but that even "Teddy" Ebersol's
plane seat could not be found.
The pilot and a flight attendant were killed, said Michael
O'Connor, regional duty officer with the Federal Aviation
Administration in Washington state. The co-pilot was hospitalized
in Denver, while Dick and Charles Ebersol were hospitalized in
Grand Junction, witnesses said.
Ebersol's wife, actress Susan Saint James, was not on the plane, the station said. The family lives in Connecticut.
Eyewitness Chuck Distel told The Associated Press by phone that he was driving on a highway parallel to the runway when he saw the plane skid sideways through a fence and brush before hitting a
roadway that ripped the cockpit from the fuselage, leaving it an
unrecognizable wreck. The Denver Post reported that the jet lifted
off briefly before crashing.
Distel said Charles helped his father through the front of the
plane and that the pair were walking around outside the wreckage as
Distel and an airport official arrived. He said Ebersol didn't say
a word as the younger man cried and yelled, "Oh my God! Oh my
"I had to think for a second, 'Who are these people?"' he
said. "They weren't severely injured, they were in shock." Distel
said Charles was able to climb into an ambulance, while the elder
Ebersol was loaded onto a stretcher.
The airport official yelled into the wreckage for survivors, but heard none. The wreckage left a burning trail of jet fuel and burst
into flames, forcing Distel and other rescuers to get away.
The younger man was able to climb into an ambulance while
Ebersol was loaded onto a stretcher, Distel said.
Linda McCool, a nursing supervisor at Montrose Memorial
Hospital, said three men were brought to the hospital after the
crash, but had all been transferred to other hospitals by Sunday
afternoon. Dan Prinster, vice president of St. Mary's Hospital in
Grand Junction, said two people were moved there from Montrose
Memorial. Neither McCool nor Prinster would release any other
information on the survivors.
The crash occurred in an area covered with small brush and cedar
trees, sheriff's Communications Supervisor David Learned said. A
large drainage ditch also is at the site.
A storm hit much of the state over the weekend and dumped more
than 3 feet of snow in the area, but it was not known if weather
was a factor in the crash.
The plane sat on the ground for about an hour and was not de-iced, Steve McLaughlin of MTJ Air Services told the Post.
Pilots of private aircraft make such decisions, an airport official said.
The plane was on its way to South Bend, Ind. The plane's tail
number was N873G, identifying it as a CL-602 Challenger, which could hold up to 19 passengers. It was registered to Jet Alliance of Millville, N.J. The company offered its condolences in a statement, but said it had no additional information.
Investigators from the FAA and National Safety Transportation
Board were en route to the airport, 185 miles southwest of Denver.
Dick Ebersol, who lives in Litchfield, Conn., has a long history
at NBC. He became director of late-night programming at NBC in 1974
and replaced Lorne Michaels for a rocky tenure as executive
producer of "Saturday Night Live" in the early 1980s. He became
president of NBC Sports in 1989 and recently signed a contract that
keeps him at the network through 2012.
Ebersol worked as an ABC researcher at the Grenoble Olympics in
1968. That began his love affair with the multisport event. He was
a protege of Roone Arledge and carried on his philosophy of
presenting the Olympics via storytelling, rather than emphasizing results.
"He is very innovative," Fox Sports chairman David Hill said
Sunday. "He's obviously a great leader and, from my perspective, a
very worthy competitor."
Charles Ebersol is a senior at the University of Notre Dame.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.