SANTA FE, N.M. — A Wheat Ridge man died in a plane crash near Santa Fe Regional Airport Monday night, according to area police.
The daughter of the victim, 73-year-old Larry Nelson, told The Santa Fe New Mexican that her father was a seasoned pilot with roughly 40 years of experience.
KC Nelson said she believes her father was forced to make an emergency landing while flying from Arizona to Akron, Colorado.
Nelson crashed near the runway, according to local police, and nearby residents said they saw flames in the area just before 8 p.m.
The pilot had recently bought the single-engine Mooney M20 he was flying Monday. KC Nelson told Santa Fe area reporters that her father recently suffered from health complications and underwent dialysis treatment.
Because of her father’s lengthy flight experience and familiarity with emergency landings, KC Nelson believes his health or an issue with the plane may have been a factor in the diversion.
“He would always say that a good pilot can get an airplane on the ground no matter what, as long as they kept themselves together and followed their checklist,” she said.
“So we really think something bad might have happened with the airplane or with him,” said Nelson, adding, “Unless something was very wrong, he never would have crashed an airplane,” his daughter said. “He was extremely smart and funny, and a capable pilot. We all miss him.”
Larry Nelson is survived by two daughters and a 23-month-old grandson.
The crash is under investigation.