Pilot killed after plane crashes in front yard of home near Centennial Airport

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CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- A Twin Cessna 404 plane operated by Colorado-based Key Lime Air crashed into the front yard of a home just 5 minutes after taking off from Centennial Airport early Tuesday morning, killing the pilot, South Metro Fire Rescue said.

The crash happened about 4:33 a.m. in the 6600 block of South Billings Way, near East Arapahoe Road and South Jordan Road, about 2 miles northeast of Centennial Airport.

The pilot was identified as Daniel Lee Steitz, 55. He died of blunt force trauma injuries as a result of the crash, according to the Arapahoe County Coroner's Office.

National Transportation Safety Board investigator Jennifer Rodi said the pilot reported a loss of engine power shortly before crashing into the neighborhood. There was light snow falling at the time of the crash and whether the engine was preheated before takeoff could have had an effect on the accident, Rodi said.

A homeowner in the neighborhood called 911 and said the plane did not hit any structures and was fully engulfed. There were no injuries reported on the ground.

"We were asleep and heard a a huge crash," said Jim Siffring, who owns the home where the plane crashed. "It was a big crash and just lit up like daylight. We rolled open the curtain and there's an airplane on fire in front of our house."

The plane did not hit any homes, but Rodi said there was some damage to one side of Siffring's home.

A neighbor who did not want to be identified or interviewed on camera captured cellphone video of the plane fully engulfed moments after it crashed and provided it to FOX31 Denver reporter Chris Jose.

“It was just really loud all of a sudden and then there was a crash,” another homeowner who did not want to be identified said. “It was one of those crashes that you can’t explain really well. And then I looked out the window and you could see the smoke come over the top of the houses.

“It was only a block or so away. And I thought it was the house right behind us, but apparently it was in the yard. And then all of a sudden there was just a loud explosion.”

Authorities said the pilot was the only person on the plane, which took off about 4:27 a.m. from the airport. According to FlightAware, Key Lime Air Flight 182 was flying to Denver International Airport.

"The airplane came in in a somewhat nose low, wing low, sort of a banked angle if you will, but not completely nose low, not in a stalled position," Rodi said. "It cartwheeled for a couple of feet."

Key Lime Air is a Centennial Airport-based aircraft rental service that transports passengers and cargo in North America, the Caribbean and South America.

"Dedication to safety is our highest priority and is paramount in our airplanes, strict pilot training, as well as our stringent operational and maintenance programs," a statement reads on Key Lime Air's website.

"It is with sincere sorrow that we have confirmed a Key Lime Air aircraft, a Cessna 404 has been involved in an accident," Key Lime Air President Cliff Honeycutt said in a statement. "The flight was a cargo flight repositioning empty from Centennial airport to Denver International. There were no passengers, only the pilot on board.  Sadly, we have received confirmation from the Arapahoe County Sheriff Department that there were no survivors in this accident.

"Our focus at this time is on supporting the family of the pilot."

The identity of the pilot has not been released by Arapahoe County officials or by Key Lime Air.

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