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On January 1, 1994, approximately 1224 mountain standard time, a Cessna 177RG, N53049, was destroyed when it struck trees near the top of 9,380-foot La Veta Pass, about 11 miles northwest of La Veta, Colorado. The pilot and one passenger were seriously injured, two passengers received minor injuries, and another passenger was uninjured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time, and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight.
The following is based on the Pilot/Operator report and a telephone interview with the pilot. According to the weather briefing he obtained prior to departure, only light to moderate turbulence around the Broomfield area was forecast. As the airplane passed Pueblo, Colorado, the Denver Automated Flight Service Station advised the pilot of "light chop" in the area. The flight was uneventful until they entered La Veta Pass at 8000 feet. Approaching the summit, they encountered turbulence and downdrafts. He said the airplane "couldn't generate any lift" and stalled. The airplane struck aspen trees and travelled approximately 100 feet on a magnetic heading of 265 degrees before coming to rest in an inverted attitude.
At 1220, a Beech 35 pilot, flying at 12,500 feet MSL, filed a pilot report (PIREP), in which he reported light turbulence and altocumulus standing lenticular clouds northwest of La Veta Pass. Ten minutes later, the pilot filed another PIREP, reporting occasional moderate turbulence and 1500 feet per minute up and downdrafts west of the pass. At 1259, the pilot filed a third PIREP, reporting extreme turbulence, and noted he was "almost
turned upside down" southeast of La Veta Pass in the Sangre de Cristos mountain range.
The wreckage was released to the owner's representative on January 2, 1994.