A married couple emerged unscathed from a small plane crash in Colorado after they managed to successfully exit the aircraft via parachute before it went down.
Tyler and Kristina Noel, of Verona, Wisconsin, were the only two occupants in a 2017 Cirrus SR22T when the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office received word from the Aspen Pitkin County Airport’s FAA Tower that the aircraft was “in distress,” the sheriff’s office said in a news release.
Tyler was able to call a county deputy on his cellphone, and reported that the plane had crashed into a heavily wooded area on a steep mountainside — but that he and his wife had managed to deploy the plane’s built-in parachute beforehand, the release said.
Sheriff’s Deputy Jesse Steindler told the Aspen Daily News that the plane’s “instruments went haywire” just before the crash.
“ said something to the effect to me that he knew he was not stalling, yet he followed protocols and made a split-second decision whether to activate the parachute and he did. I imagine that was because he could not see anything out the window,” Steindler said, referring to the day’s snowy weather.
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Steindler further explained that the plane itself has a parachute mounted on a “small rocket” that shoots up when activated and deploys the cute, allowing the plane to float to the ground more safely.
The plane, which was headed for Eagle, Colorado, went down around 3:30 p.m., and 25 rescuers with Mountain Rescue Aspen made their way to the scene about three hours later, the release said.
The rescuers “reported that the aircraft was lodged on a very steep slope amidst a forest of pine trees,” and that the parachute the pair had used to save themselves was tangled up in the trees and “was keeping the aircraft in place,” according to the release.
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The couple was found wearing extra clothing from their luggage to stay warm in the cold temperatures, but they were ill-equipped to spend the night.
Using skis, snowshoes and snowmobiles, the survivors and their rescuers trekked through the “very deep and powdery” snow and were eventually led to safety just after midnight, according to the release.
Steindler told the Daily News that the couple was “upset” by the rescue team’s request that they leave their luggage behind, and that they declined ambulance services once they made it back to safety.
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The National Transportation Safety Board said in a report that the aircraft sustained “substantial damage” in the Jan. 27 crash.
“This is certainly the first crash of this sort where everyone walks away and I had never heard of a plane with a parachute on it before last night,” Steindler said.