Snowmass pilot remains critical after fiery plane crash |

Snowmass pilot remains critical after fiery plane crash

John Colson
Aspen correspondent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Richard Shenk, a Snowmass Village resident seriously injured in a recent plane crash in Kentucky, remains “under heavy sedation” and doctors “are still trying to stabilize him” at University Hospital in Louisville, Shenk’s son said on Thursday.

“It’s very, very serious,” said David Shenk, 41. “He’s not out of the woods yet.”

Shenk, 68, has lived in the Roaring Fork Valley for about a dozen years. After taking off from the Garfield County Airport in Rifle for a cross-country trip, he was flying solo in his Cessna 210 Centurian plane on April 6 when the plane went down in a residential neighborhood as it approached Bowman Field near Louisville for a landing.

In a story from The Associated Press, the plane was approaching a landing strip “when it made a sudden 360-degree turn,” FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said, according to the (Louisville) Courier-Journal.

Officials say the single-engine Cessna landed in the front yard of a house, skidded across the street and hit some trees in an adjacent yard. Fire officials say they removed the pilot and extinguished a small fire on the plane, the AP reported.

Mike Oost, among the neighbors who responded to the crash site and tried to use garden hoses to extinguish the blaze, was quoted in Courier-Journal that the pilot “was laying crossways on the seat and his shirt had burned off. Skin was peeling off his head and one of his arms. His ears also appeared to be burned. And he was shaking violently.”

David Shenk said his father has remained unconscious “ever since he got to the emergency room,” and is listed in critical condition. Shenk said that he lives in New York City, and that he and his siblings have traveled from homes around the country to be with their father, as has his wife, Betty Ann.

Although reluctant to give details about his father’s injuries, Shenk said, “Let’s just say he has a real range of injuries from the crash … some serious burns.” He said his father has yet to be able to say what happened to cause the crash, which is being investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration.

From what David Shenk has learned, his father “seemed to have had to bring the plane down right away” and “did a darned good job” of crash landing in a way that avoided any injuries other than his own.

Although unable to speak, Richard Shenk can hear people talking to him, his son believes.

“We’re relaying messages to him that people are sending,” David Shenk said, noting that his father has “a lot of friends who care about him very much,” including a number of residents of the Roaring Fork Valley, who are sending messages of support.

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