Dick and Charles Ebersol expected to recover

Updated: November 30, 2004, 2:21 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

MONTROSE, Colo. -- The body of the 14-year-old son of NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol was believed recovered Monday after a fiery jet crash that killed two crewmen and left the injured executive and another of his sons begging bystanders for help.

Dick Ebersol
APAuthorities place a blue body-bag on the far side of the wreckage of the jet that crashed on takeoff Sunday. The body is believed to be that of 14-year-old Edward "Teddy" Ebersol.

Coroner Mark Young said a body matching the description of Edward "Teddy" Ebersol was found underneath the wreckage and that he was "99.9 percent sure" it was the teenager's. Heavy equipment was used to recover the body.

"I'm not going to discuss the condition of the body out of respect for the family," Young said during a news conference. "May God be with his soul."

The aircraft with six people on board crashed during a snowstorm Sunday while taking off from the airport outside this small town 185 miles southwest of Denver. A snowstorm had moved through the area, and there was light snow and fog at the time of takeoff.

Witnesses described a chaotic scene following the crash. Charles Ebersol, the sports executive's 21-year-old son, was screaming for help and saying his brother was still on the plane, according to Doug Percival, a driver at a towing service who was one of the first to arrive.

" 'Can you please help get him out?' " Ebersol pleaded, according to Percival. The elder Ebersol was sitting on the ground nearby, rocking back and forth.

"You could tell he was in shock. Both of them had been ripped out of their shoes," said Percival.

Dick and Charles Ebersol remained hospitalized in stable condition Monday night and are expected to make a full recovery, NBC said in a statement.

With light snow falling, crews began picking through the charred pile of twisted metal and a 6-foot-high shard of the fuselage with three gaping, round windows. The two engines lay on the ground nearby near the tail section where they had been mounted.

A backhoe was brought in to help dig through the wreckage, found near a cattle pen in a snow-covered field dotted with knee-high weeds. A gray tarp was draped across part of the site as crews wrapped up work for the day.

"It's going to be a while because unfortunately a lot of the wreckage is still covered with snow," said Arnold Scott, the lead investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board.

Ebersol has been head of NBC Sports for nearly 15 years, and is perhaps best known for his love of the Olympics, which are broadcast on the network.

"On behalf of everyone at ESPN and ABC Sports, I want to express our sympathies to Dick and his family," George Bodenheimer, president of ESPN and ABC Sports, said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with him during this tragic ordeal."

Ebersol and his two sons, Charles and Edward, were flying home from California, where the older son's school, Notre Dame, played a football game Saturday against Southern California. Another Ebersol son, 18-year-old Willie, is a freshman at USC.

The family flew to Colorado, where they have a home, to drop off Ebersol's wife, Susan Saint James, an actress who starred in the 1980s television series "Kate and Allie." Then, Ebersol and the two sons were headed to drop off Charles at school in South Bend, Ind.

Steve McLaughlin of MTJ Air Services, which de-ices private planes at the airport, said his company did not de-ice Ebersol's plane before it took off. Airport manager Scott Brownlee said he did not know whether the plane had been de-iced.

Witnesses said it appeared the plane, a CL-602 Challenger, never got off the ground. It ran off the runway and skidded across a two-lane road, punching through fences on either side before bursting into flames.

Percival said he was going to crawl through a hole in the plane to look for survivors but turned around because of billowing smoke. He said leaking jet fuel soon exploded "like Roman candles."

Gary Ellis was teaching Sunday school at a Baptist Church near the airport when he heard a loud "poof."

"It came to a rest, and a moment or two later it exploded into a huge fireball," said Ellis. "It was burning as it came down the runway."

The FAA said the pilot and a flight attendant were killed. The coroner's office identified the pilot as Luis Alberto Polanco Espaillat, 50, of the Dominican Republic and the flight attendant as Warren T. Richardson III, 36, of Coral Gables, Fla.

The co-pilot was in critical condition at a burn unit in Denver, while Dick and Charles Ebersol were hospitalized in Grand Junction.

The plane was registered to Jet Alliance of Millville, N.J. The company offered its condolences but said it had no additional information.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Investigators probing what caused the jet to crash during takeoff want to know whether it was de-iced before it went down, a federal official said Tuesday. They have not ruled out other possible factors.

"We do want to look at de-icing because of the weather conditions, but we're not going to just focus on one possibility," Ellen Engleman Connors, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, told CBS' "The Early Show."

The aircraft with six people on board crashed during a snowstorm Sunday while taking off from the airport outside this small town 185 miles southwest of Denver. A snowstorm had moved through the area, and there was light snow and fog at the time of takeoff.

Witnesses described a chaotic scene following the crash. Charles Ebersol, the sports executive's 21-year-old son, was screaming for help and saying his brother was still on the plane, according to Doug Percival, a driver at a towing service who was one of the first to arrive.

" 'Can you please help get him out?' " Ebersol pleaded, according to Percival. The elder Ebersol was sitting on the ground nearby, rocking back and forth.

"You could tell he was in shock. Both of them had been ripped out of their shoes," said Percival.

Dick and Charles Ebersol remained hospitalized in stable condition Monday night and are expected to make a full recovery, NBC said in a statement.

Ebersol broke his sternum and some ribs and has fluid in his lungs, according to an unidentified NBC official quoted in a New York Times report.

With light snow falling, crews began picking through the charred pile of twisted metal and a 6-foot-high shard of the fuselage with three gaping, round windows. The two engines lay on the ground nearby near the tail section where they had been mounted.

A backhoe was brought in to help dig through the wreckage, found near a cattle pen in a snow-covered field dotted with knee-high weeds. A gray tarp was draped across part of the site as crews wrapped up work for the day.

"It's going to be a while because unfortunately a lot of the wreckage is still covered with snow," said Arnold Scott, the lead investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board.

The plane's voice recorder was recovered Monday. The jet did not have a flight data recorder.

"I had two major concerns when I got here," Scott said. "The first was to recover the sixth occupant, and the second was to recover the cockpit voice recorder. We accomplished those things, and now we'll get into the intricate details of the investigation."

Chairman Connors said that among the factors to be studied are "structural failure, fuel imbalance, engine failure, was there a problem with air speed, human factors" and weather. Investigators will interview Ebersol when doctors allow it, she said.

Ebersol has been head of NBC Sports for nearly 15 years, and is perhaps best known for his love of the Olympics, which are broadcast on the network.

"On behalf of everyone at ESPN and ABC Sports, I want to express our sympathies to Dick and his family," George Bodenheimer, president of ESPN and ABC Sports, said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with him during this tragic ordeal."

Ebersol and his two sons, Charles and Edward, were flying home from California, where the older son's school, Notre Dame, played a football game Saturday against Southern California. Another Ebersol son, 18-year-old Willie, is a freshman at USC.

The family flew to Colorado, where they have a home, to drop off Ebersol's wife, Susan Saint James, an actress who starred in the 1980s television series "Kate and Allie." Then, Ebersol and the two sons were headed to drop off Charles at school in South Bend, Ind.

Steve McLaughlin of MTJ Air Services, which de-ices private planes at the airport, said his company did not de-ice Ebersol's plane before it took off. Airport manager Scott Brownlee said he did not know whether the plane had been de-iced.

Witnesses said it appeared the plane, a CL-602 Challenger, never got off the ground. It ran off the runway and skidded across a two-lane road, punching through fences on either side before bursting into flames.

Percival said he was going to crawl through a hole in the plane to look for survivors but turned around because of billowing smoke. He said leaking jet fuel soon exploded "like Roman candles."

Gary Ellis was teaching Sunday school at a Baptist Church near the airport when he heard a loud "poof."

"It came to a rest, and a moment or two later it exploded into a huge fireball," said Ellis. "It was burning as it came down the runway."

The FAA said the pilot and a flight attendant were killed. The coroner's office identified the pilot as Luis Alberto Polanco Espaillat, 50, of the Dominican Republic and the flight attendant as Warren T. Richardson III, 36, of Coral Gables, Fla.

The co-pilot was in critical condition at a burn unit in Denver, while Dick and Charles Ebersol were hospitalized in Grand Junction.

The plane was registered to Jet Alliance of Millville, N.J. The company offered its condolences but said it had no additional information.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report. -->

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