Victims of plane crash identified

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SUN photo/Ed Fincher Emergency personnel tend to the crash site of a single-engine plane on Sept. 25. The crash claimed the lives of two occupants who were in town for an air race the following day.
SUN photo/Ed Fincher
Emergency personnel tend to the crash site of a single-engine plane on Sept. 25. The crash claimed the lives of two occupants who were in town for an air race the following day.

While the investigation remains open, the Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office has released additional information concerning the fatal plane crash that occurred Sept. 25 — including the identities of the two victims.

According to Undersheriff Tonya Hamilton, the pilot has been identified as Robert “Bobby” Bennet, 70, of Midlothian, Texas. The passenger was identified as Svetlana Solodovnyk, 53, of Ukraine.

The couple died when Bennet’s plane, a 1964 Beechcraft S35 Bonanza single-engine plane, crashed south of Pagosa Springs shortly before 11:30 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 25. The crash was reported at 11:26 a.m., an ACSO statement reported.

Hamilton reported that the couple was in town for the 2015 Pagosa Springs Air Race that took place Saturday and were flying the race course in anticipation of Saturday’s event at the time of the crash.

Hamilton reported late Wednesday afternoon that, shortly before the crash, Bennet had radioed a friend who was flying 8 to 9 miles south of his plane, informing the friend that Bennet’s plane had lost an engine and was “going down.”

Archuleta County Coroner Dan Keuning, who happened to be in the area on business as a nurse practitioner, reported white smoke coming from the plane shortly before the crash, Hamilton said.

“They definitely suspect mechanical problems because the witness … saw white smoke coming from the plane,” Hamilton said. The plane was also seen banking hard to the left.

Hamilton said officials suspect Bennet was trying to land on the gravel entrance road to 6252 U.S. 84, which is also the old path of the highway.

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