PHOENIX (AP) - Federal officials say the Arizona pilot of a light plane that crashed into a cliff face shrouded in clouds and mist on a vacation trip to Colorado wasn't certified to fly in poor weather conditions.
Scottsdale attorney Eric Falbe, his wife and his two daughters were killed in the January 2, 2017 crash near Payson. On that day, the four took off from Scottsdale Airport, bound for Telluride, Colorado. The weather that day was terrible, with snow and low hanging clouds.
Falbe was not instrument rated, and was only trained to fly visually. According to the NTSB report, the plane's co-owner, who had an instrument rating, "reviewed the pilot's flight plan, and informed the pilot that he should drive to his destination. However, the pilot elected to proceed with the flight, contrary to the co-owner's recommendation."
"He should never have flown that day," said Cynthia Larmore, Falbe's ex-wife. In an interview with FOX 10's John Hook that was broadcast in early February, Larmore said she was constantly worried about her ex-husband's flying of her daughters.
"It was my worst fear that it would happen to my children," said Larmore.
25 minutes after takeoff, the plane crashed into the steep face of the Mogollon Rim, 11 miles north of Payson, killing all four onboard. A medical study revealed that all four sustained severe traumatic injuries, and died immediately upon impact.
The NTSB report faults the pilot for "improper decisions to begin and to continue a flight under visual flight rules into instrument meteorological conditions, which resulted in controlled flight into terrain."
At the time of the accident, clouds ere only 300 feet off the ground, and upon entering heavy clouds, the plane descended 2,000 feet, likely so that the pilot could see the ground. That descent, however, put the plane on a collision course with the mountains.
The plane was equipped with a terrain awareness warning system that would have alerted the pilot of the mountain ahead, which explains the aircraft's 500-foot climb in the final moments before impact.
"I'm praying Torrie and Skylar didn't know, and I'm praying they had their headphones on and that they were playing with their devices," said Larmore, during her interview with Hook. "I pray that they died immediately, that they didn't suffer."
Not only did Falbe not file a flight plan that day, the NTSB report states he also neglected to get a weather briefing that would have warmed him of poor visibility ahead.
Investigators say the plane was operating perfectly at the time, and "revealed no evidence of any pre-impact mechanical malfunctions or failures."
"He was negligent, and he shouldn't have been taking off that day, and then he was negligent by not turning the plane around," said Larmore, during her interview with Hook.