Pilot dies in plane crash on Douglas County ranch

Single-engine plane comes down at Winkler Cattle Company

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A private plane en route to Centennial Airport crashed at a cattle ranch near Castlewood Canyon State Park, killing the male pilot who was the lone occupant of the craft.

The Douglas County coroner’s office identified the pilot as 27-year-old Jason Craig Bedford of the Meridian area of Douglas County.

The plane, a 1973 fixed-wing, single-engine Cherokee Piper, last showed up on airport radar around 8:40 p.m. March 30, about the same time the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office received a call from a resident in the area reporting what sounded like an airplane making stalling noises.

“Centennial did not get any emergency call or any maydays,” said Deborah Sherman, spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office. “A ranch hand at Winkler Cattle Company checking on a sick calf (Sunday) morning saw the wreckage, and contacted us.”

The sheriff’s office responded to the call at 10:10 a.m. March 31, along with Franktown Fire and the National Transportation Safety Board.

Sherman said the NTSB was conducting an investigation to determine whether the accident was caused by mechanical failure, human error or environmental causes. 

They will also research radar data, and the pilot’s sleep patterns and background. A preliminary report is expected to be released within seven to 10 days of the accident.

The plane had departed Sandia Airpark in Edgewood, N.M., and Bedford was en route to spend Easter with his girlfriend, Sherman said.

The girlfriend contacted the FAA Saturday evening when he did not land on time. The FAA issued a report and contacted the sheriff’s office to send search and rescue team members into the area to look for possible wreckage.

Searchers were unsuccessful in locating the aircraft – which had been registered to Bedford since early 2013— and it went undiscovered until the ranch hand came across it on March 31.

The pilot’s certificates were up-to-date, according to Alex Lemishko, senior air investigator for the NTSB.

Winkler Cattle Company, located at 2634 S. Castlewood Canyon Road, is about 20 miles south of Centennial Airport.