Men killed in crash have local ties

Published 5:24 pm Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The father and son reported missing after their plane disappeared during a flight near Steamboat Springs, Colo., Sunday were found dead by authorities, according to Austin-area family members, who, up until then, had been anxiously awaiting word from authorities about the pair.

“We found out about 2 p.m. yesterday,” said Bruce Hovland, the uncle of 26-year-old Levi Klapperich, who had been piloting the plane accompanied by his father, Mark Klapperich, 56.

Authorities found the two around 1 p.m. Tuesday six miles east of Steamboat Springs near a reservoir, according to the Steamboat Pilot & Today, which reported that teams had widened the search that day to include 4,000 square miles across 11 counties in Colorado and Wyoming.

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No cause has been determined, according to the report, adding that The National Transportation Safety Board will soon review the scene. Calls to Routt County Search and Rescue, which led search and recovery efforts, were not immediately returned.

According to Hovland, the two Klapperich’s left around 8 a.m. Sunday from Yampa Valley Regional Airport, bound for the Fort Collins-Loveland Municipal Airport near Levi’s mother’s Boulder home. After they failed to arrive three hours later, Civil Air Patrol began an aerial search before requesting ground crews at 3 p.m., according to The Steamboat Pilot.

“We thought it was going to be a quick rescue operation because of the short distance they had to travel,” Hovland, of Austin, said. “There’s not many places it can go.”

Search crews, which include Civil Air Patrol, Routt County Search and Rescue and the National Guard, have been particularly interested in Morrison Creek and Harrison Creek area, the sites of three other plane crashes, according to the Steamboat Pilot.

Crews also combed Rabbit Ears Pass, Durmont Lake and surrounding regions.

According to the Steamboat Pilot, a searcher on snowmobile found the wreckage after noticing an unusual smell.

A statement released by family members Tuesday expressed hope that the two had survived.

“(Family spokesperson David) Klapperich feels the two men may have survived a crash somewhere in Routt County,” it said. “The father and son are avid outdoorsmen with plenty of experience in the back country.”

Hovland said the family is coping “fairly well” with the deaths.

“We’re an aviation family,” he said.

Levi, of Durango, Colo., is an experienced pilot, having logged 3,100 hours of flying time in his career, said the Steamboat-Pilot article. He was flying a Cessna 310, borrowed from a friend, at the time of the crash. According to Hovland, the family has a long flight history, with Hovland’s father, Glenn, hired as the original pilot for Hormel Foods.

Funerals will take place Saturday in Hayden, Colo., the home of Mark Klapperich.

The Hovlands, with eight siblings, were born in the Austin area; the Klapperichs originate in Adams, Minn., Hovland said. Calls to David Klapperich were not immediately returned.