‘Idiot’ Pilot Buzzes Boats on Colorado Reservoir Before Crashing Plane

by Craig Garrett

After flying erratically around Horsetooth Reservoir, a pilot has been called reckless by aviation experts following their plane’s collision. Following a CBS News Colorado report that highlighted the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office’s request for photographs and videos of the flight before the accident, several people have started providing investigators with photographs and videos. Photographer Stephanie Stamos reported seeing the dangerous flying.

“I was up at Horsetooth doing a photo shoot for a high school senior,” Stamos explained. “All of a sudden I see this plane and it was coming in so low.” Normally, Stamos of Stamos Fine Art Photography is shooting portraits. However, after the recent airliner crash, she found herself helping in the NTSB and FAA’s investigation. In her pictures, the pilot seems to be aiming at boats that were in the water. The plane swoops down close to a boat and narrowly misses it before banking to the right to buzz by another pontoon boat.

“He was so close to the boats I thought he was going to hit the boats. And when you see the picture, it was even closer than I thought it was. His wheel was almost right on top of the boat,” Stamos said. “You can see the person in the boat with their hands up.” Stamos’s images were able to capture the plane’s flight frame-by-frame due to her use of an expensive lens that can zoom from far away. “You could see point-by-point,” Stamos said. “The footage is incredible.” 

Experts weigh in on the pilot’s actions

Stamos watched the pilot veer erratically before ascending and flying over the hills. She only realized the plane had crashed when she saw it on tv, but wasn’t surprised to hear about it. The sheriff called the incident a “miracle” because both passengers on board escaped with minor injuries. And, in order to avoid having to combat another fire as a result of the accident, the county was spared from having to confront another wildfire.

Aviation experts, such as Kevin Kuhlmann from Metro State University of Denver, state that the images likely show the pilot breaking aviation guidelines and laws before the crash occurred.”That is the epitome of reckless and careless operation of an aircraft,” Kuhlmann explained. Kuhlmann, a professor from MSU’s School of Aviation and Aerospace, said flying close to the water is only illegal if there are boats or humans near the vicinity.

Photos from Stamos’ camera show there were numerous boats in the water. Also, because of the nice weather, people were on the shore, trails and campsites close by.”That is not permitted per the federal aviation regulations,” Kuhlmann stated. “You cannot fly in any way that would endanger persons or property on the ground if you were to lose the engine. It is an utter danger to those people in the boat and in the aircraft.”