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Weather delays crash recovery

Posted: Wednesday, Dec 24th, 2008

ALAMOSA — Bad weather has forced Costilla County authorities to wait till Saturday, Dec. 27 for another attempt to recover the bodies of two Canadians presumed dead following the crash of their light aircraft on Dec. 20. The victims have been identified as 67-year-old Gerrit Maureau, known as “Gerry” and his 65-year-old wife, Dr. Sheila Malm, both of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Maureau was president and CEO at the Canadian Petroleum Institute and, according to Costilla Sheriff’s Sgt. James Chavez, the couple was very influential in Calgary.

The couple left Calgary on Dec. 20 on their way to Santa Fe, N.M. Their plane stopped in Pueblo to refuel and left that airport at 6:45 p.m. on the last leg of their trip. The FAA lost radar contact with the Beechcraft Baron twin-engine, pressurized light aircraft, owned by Maureau, at 7:50 p.m. on the 20th.

Helicopter search crews from Kirtland Air Force Base, near Albuquerque, located the crash site late Saturday, but bad weather conditions prevented a landing. Ground crews using SnowCats were able to get with two miles of the downed craft on Sunday, but again were turned back by the weather. Conditions have not improved in the area enough to permit another attempt at recovery on the ground.

Two helicopters from Kirtland were used in the search. Four F-16 jets from Denver were on standby for the search, but were not needed as the ‘copters were able to locate the wreckage on 13,723-foot high Vermejo Peak in southern Costilla County. According to the Costilla Sheriff’s office, the helicopter crews reported the crash site as indicating a tremendous impact, with wreckage strewn over a large area, and little chance of survivors. The crash and its victims have been on the mountain for several nights and will be for several more before they can be recovered.

Chavez, on Tuesday, Dec. 23, said, “I just left San Luis and it’s snowing there like a big dog.” He said the next attempt at recovery is now set for Saturday, Dec. 27. San Luis, in southern Costilla County is the closest community to the crash site.

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