Pilot dies in crash while fighting Kruger Rock Fire

Deputies say that the pilot was the only occupant of the single-engine air tanker plane

ESTES PARK, Colo. – A pilot fighting the Kruger Rock Fire in Estes Park, Colorado, was killed when the plane crashed Tuesday night. 

According to the FAA, the single-engine Air Tractor AT-802 crashed to the southeast of Estes Park around 6:15 p.m. local time after taking off from Northern Colorado Regional Airport in Loveland.

The plane crash site was located near the south end of Hermit Park around 9:49 p.m., according to the Larimer County Sheriff's Office.

Deputies say that the pilot, who has since been identified as Marc Thor Olson, was the only occupant of the single-engine air tanker plane.


Firefighters were using aircraft after sunset because strong winds grounded aviation resources during the daylight hours.

Larimer County Sheriff's Office and CO Fire Aviation worked together Tuesday afternoon to determine a plan for the nighttime firefight flight, including fire and weather behavior.  

"A few hours later, CO Fire Aviation said they were checking the weather and crosswinds at the fire and were comfortable making airdrops.  The plane left Fort Morgan and headed to the fire with a load of water.  With LCSO resources on the ground communicating with the pilot, the water drop was successful," Larimer County Sheriff's Office said. "The pilot reported the wind was not too bad at the fire and said he would head to Loveland to get a load of suppressant to make a second drop."

It was during the second trip that the plane encountered problems. 

"About an hour later, the plane returned to the fire, and the pilot told ground resources it was turbulent over the fire, conditions were not ideal to make a drop, and that he was going to make one more pass and then return to Loveland.  Moments later, at approximately 6:37 p.m., ground resources heard the plane crash," Larimer County deputies said. 

Crews began looking for the plane, and it was found several hours later. 

Deputies say the pilot was recovered from the wreckage Wednesday morning. 

The FAA and NTSB are investigating the crash. Olson, who the organization said was a decorated Air Force and Army veteran, had logged more than 8,000 flight hours over his 42 years of flying.

"The CO Fire Aviation family is saddened by the sudden, tragic loss of one of our brothers serving as a tanker pilot," the organization said in a Facebook post on Wednesday afternoon. 

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