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FAA Investigates Mid-Air Collision Between 2 Small Planes Above Cherry Creek Reservoir South Of Denver

UPDATE: After Collision, Woman Saw Damaged Aircraft Coming Down And 'Just Ran' | Both Pilot Actions Were Impressive, According To Aviation Professor

(CBS4)- Crews with South Metro Fire Rescue and the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office rushed to the wreckage from a plane crash after two small planes collided mid-air on Wednesday morning. No injuries were reported.

The wreckage of one plane was found south of Cherry Creek Reservoir and the other plane landed at Centennial Airport with a huge hole in its cabin.

key lime airplane (no credit desired) copy
(credit: CBS)

Witnesses say they are shocked nobody was killed or hurt. Two people walked away from the crash scene.

"I was in the kitchen and I heard a loud firecracker bang. I ran out (on to my patio). Right when I got here I heard another bang," said Shelly Whitehead, a witness. "I saw a plane coming down."

The in-flight collision happened over Cherry Creek State Park to the southeast of Denver's city limits, and the plane that crashed did so close to where Belleview Avenue intersects with Peoria Street.

Before the crash, air traffic control could be heard asking, "Cirrus 6 Delta Juliet did you overshoot the final?" and then "Cirrus 6 Delta Juliet do you require assistance?"

Seven seconds later the controller says, "Cirrus 6 Delta Juliet if you hear this transmission we have emergency vehicles in your direction."

Video of the smaller red aircraft falling to the ground, guided by a parachute, was recorded by Hector Velazquez. He is heard asking his coworkers if they should run to help, and then points out others were already running around the crash site.

plane crash
(credit: South Metro Fire Rescue)

From her patio, Whitehead told CBS4's Dillon Thomas she couldn't do anything but watch as the plane went down.

"I thought, 'Is it somebody just jumping out of a plane?' And then I realized the parachute was attached to a plane," Whitehead recalled. "I thought for sure they weren't going to make it out of there."

Her friend, Frances, was walking in Cherry Creek State Park when the plane crashed. She, and her dog, ran for cover as the plane plummeted from above.


First responders told CBS4 they expected the worst when they were dispatched to a plane down following a mid-air collision.

Whitehead said it was a miracle the planes, or falling debris, didn't land on homes or people in the popular neighborhood between Cherry Creek Reservoir and Centennial Airport. She said she's always wondered if this type of incident could happen while living under the flight line for the runways, but she never expected it would actually happen.

"It was kind of scary. But at the same time I was stunned it was happening," Whitehead said. "It's right in our backyard."

Plane crash damage
(credit: CBS)

Investigators from the FAA and NTSB are now working to determine what caused the collision.

The FAA released this statement on the preliminary investigation, "A Cirrus SR-22 and a Swearingen Metroliner SA226TC collided in midair approximately four miles north of Centennial Airport in Denver, Colo., around 10:25 a.m. local time today. The pilot of the Cirrus deployed the aircraft's parachute and landed in a nearby neighborhood. The pilot of the Swearingen landed at Centennial Airport. Two people were onboard the Cirrus and one person was onboard the Swearingen. Please check with local authorities for the occupants' conditions and identities. We have no reports of people on the ground being injured. The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate. Neither agency identifies people involved in aircraft accidents."

Key Lime Air released this statement to CBS4 which reads in part: Key Lime Air has received confirmed reports that on March 12, 2021 at approximately 10:20AM Mountain Time one of our cargo aircraft, a Fairchild Metroliner was on approach to landing at Centennial Airport when it was struck by another aircraft.

The Metroliner sustained substantial damage to the empennage and tail section but the pilot was able to continue the approach and landed safely.

It is our understanding that the pilot of the other aircraft, a Cirrus SR22 deployed the ballistic recovery parachute and that the pilot and passenger did not suffer injury.

We are participating in an active investigation of the incident with the FAA and NTSB. As information comes to light, if authorities deem it appropriate to share with the public, we will do so. We cannot express the gratitude we have, company-wide that no one was injured. We thank all those who have reached out with concern for our company and its people.

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