Ken and Carol Marcoux like to watch planes land and take off at Boulder Municipal Airport, and Wednesday morning was no different for the Gunbarrel couple.
As they pulled their Toyota Prius over to the side of Independence Road to catch a tow plane and glider take to a beautiful
blue sky, they spotted a small plane coming in from the east.
"He seemed to have real trouble controlling the plane," Ken Marcoux said.
Strong crosswinds were jostling the plane, Marcoux said, and the aircraft slammed onto the runway, bounced and veered "like it was on a turntable" 45 degrees to the north.
What happened next -- shortly before noon -- would put the couple at the center of a dramatic hit-and-run and prompt a Federal Aviation Administration investigation into the single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza crash and its pilot.
To the couple's horror, the plane -- whose pilot was later identified as Joe Curtis, 67, of Commerce City -- was pointed right at their car and approaching at what Marcoux estimated was 100 mph. Carol Marcoux screamed "Ken!" and her husband stepped on the gas, moving the Prius forward just enough to spare them a potentially fatal hit.
Carol Marcoux said she heard "a big sound of glass breaking" as the right wingtip of the plane slammed into the back of the car -- shattering the rear passenger window and denting the rear quarter panel -- just inches behind her head.
"It's amazing," Carol Marcoux said. "I'm very grateful that I wasn't decapitated."
The plane continued across the road and hit a utility pole, shearing off most of its left wing.
When the Beechcraft finally came to a rest in a field 100 yards north of the airport, Ken Marcoux said he watched the pilot get out, grab a big black satchel and run back toward the airport.
"As soon as he stopped, he couldn't wait to get out of that plane," he said.
Another pilot on the airfield tried to get his attention, but he kept running, Marcoux said.
"It's peculiar, and a bit bizarre," said Boulder sheriff's Sgt. Mike Dimond, as a bloodhound trotted with a deputy toward the plane to make an olfactory inspection of the stilled aircraft. "This is my first call of this nature."
A few hours later, Curtis -- who did not appear to be hurt -- contacted the FAA, authorities said, and met with an investigator in the parking lot of a glider business a quarter-mile from the crash site.
He refused to respond to a reporter asking for comment as he got into a red pickup truck with a trailer attached and drove off.
Christopher Lang, the primary operations inspector for the FAA who met with Curtis on Wednesday, wouldn't say anything about the collision beyond calling it an "accident."
Mike Fergus, an FAA spokesman with the agency's Northwest Mountain regional headquarters, said an investigation is under way and declined to talk about whether Curtis could be cited for leaving the scene of an accident.
All other agencies involved in Wednesday's collision -- the Sheriff's Office, the Colorado State Patrol and the National Transportation Safety Board -- referred questions about potential criminal charges to the FAA.
Nothing has been disclosed as to where Curtis went during the hours he was missing. Authorities did say he had a rented hangar at Boulder Municipal Airport and fueled his plane there Wednesday morning.
Independence Road was littered with debris from the crash late into the day, with the Beechcraft's right wingtip lying on the north side of the road and half of its other wing smashed up against the utility pole.
The plane also took out a speed limit sign and lay it on its side.
Ken Marcoux said he couldn't help but wonder what was in Curtis' black bag and why he was in such a hurry.
Despite the close call, Marcoux was still able to find humor in the nearly cataclysmic moment, which he playfully labeled a "fly and run."
"That was one time a Prius is not the best car to be in," he said, noting that a more powerful sports car might have given the couple a faster jump and a better margin of safety.
Click to view image: 'planecrash1'
Click to view image: 'planecrash2'
|Liveleak on Facebook|