A Maryland woman phoned The Aspen Times on Tuesday with fond remembrances of two of the three pilots who were aboard the business jet that crashed at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport on Sunday.
Irma Castellanos, 51, said although she was not related to brothers Sergio Emilio Carranza Brabata and Moises Arturo Carranza Brabata, she considered them cousins. She knows them as “Emilo” and “Arturo.”
Her mother and their mother were the best of friends when the children were growing up in the city of Coatzacoalcos, in the Gulf of Mexico coastal state of Veracruz, and the families remained close for many years even after relocating to different parts of the country.
“They were super-nice guys,” Castellanos said. “When we were little our parents would take us to the beach. We would always get together for birthdays. I saw them from the time I was born until I was in my 20s.”
Emilio Brabata, 54, was the co-pilot of the Bombardier Challenger 600 aircraft that wrecked after landing at the airport at 12:23 p.m. Sunday. Witnesses said it caught fire, rolled along the east-west runway and then came to a rest upside down. Emilio Brabata was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office.
Arturo Brabata, whom Castellanos said is 52 years old, was listed in “fair” condition Tuesday evening at St. Mary’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Grand Junction. His injuries were not caused by the fire that ignited during the crash, the Sheriff’s Office has said, declining to offer details.
A third pilot who was aboard the plane, identified by Landings.com as Miguel Angel Henriquez, also survived the crash. He is listed in “critical” condition at St. Mary’s Hospital. His injuries were not caused by the fire, authorities said. Castellanos said she did not know Henriquez.
No other people were aboard the plane. The flight originated in Mexico and stopped for a customs check in Tucson, Ariz., a few hours before attempting to land in Aspen amid strong winds. Authorities have not said who was flying the plane at the time of the accident. A National Transportation Safety Board investigation is under way.
The airport was closed immediately after the crash and all of Monday. The wreckage was cleared Monday night, allowing the airport to resume business early Tuesday morning. During a news conference at the airport Monday afternoon, officials did not speculate on what caused the crash and were quick to note that NTSB investigations typically take 12-18 months to complete.
Castellanos, of Mount Airy, Md., said she was shocked and saddened upon learning that the Brabata brothers were in the crash. She said she has not seen them since her wedding in Mexico about 25 years ago.
Both were “fun-loving family men,” she said, and they grew up with a love of aviation. Their father was a pilot, as was hers.
“Both were married, and they have kids in their 20s. They have religious, Christian families,” Castellanos said.
The Brabata brothers’ father, who no longer is alive, used to fly planes for an oil company. Because of him, “They always wanted to be pilots,” she said.
Castellanos said the Brabata brothers had a younger sister, Lucia. She said she believes Lucia became a flight attendant. Their mother, who lives in Mexico City, also is named Lucia, Castellanos said.
She said she believes that at one time, the Brabata brothers flew for the commercial airline Mexicana.
“Flying was their passion,” she said.
Castellanos said her husband is a pilot, and the crash has given her some anxiety concerning his safety. Her own father died in an airplane accident 45 years ago while flying for an oil company.
“This is a sad time,” she said.