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Pilot's Skill May Have Kept Plane From Crashing Into Homes

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (CBS4) - The coroner has identified the pilot who died when his small plane went down after taking off from Centennial Airport early Tuesday morning.

Daniel Lee Steitz
Daniel Lee Steitz (credit: Facebook)

Daniel Lee Steitz, 55, from Aurora, worked for Key Lime Air. The National Transportation Safety Board says the plane he was flying cartwheeled after crashing and then came to stop on a homeowner's lawn.

CBS4's Howard Nathan spoke with a veteran pilot who says it may have been both skill and luck that kept the plane from crashing into homes.

The Cessna 404 cargo plane was ripped open by the time it stopped tumbling on Jim Siffring's front lawn before dawn.

"Big crash and then the room just lit up like daylight … our bedroom is facing right there at the crash scene," Siffring said.

Flames were so intense the siding melted on his house.

(credit: CBS)

Bob Doubek has been flying small planes for 68 years and knows what a pilot is thinking when a problem erupts during the flight.

"Fly the aircraft, fly it all the way to the scene of the accident," he said.

In this case the accident scene was just several feet from Siffring's house in a residential neighborhood. A neighbor explained what an eyewitness saw.

"He said the plane just dropped like a rock, it was kind of sitting at an angle … and just dropped like a rock," the neighbor said.

(credit: CBS)

No matter what a pilot will try, they'll sometimes crash into property. Earlier this month six people died when a plane crashed into a home in Maryland. Three of the victims, a mother and two children, were inside their house.

Last May in Northglenn a small plane crashed into a home, but luckily nobody died.

"(It's a) matter of self-preservation. You're looking for the best spot to put it down. It may be a highway, it may be a golf course, if you're lucky," Doubek said.

The plane was removed Tuesday night. The NTSB says the engine lost power, but they also say they will not know the cause behind the crash for another 10 months.

RELATED: Pilot Killed In Crash That Remarkably Didn't Hit Any Homes

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