DENVER - A charter jet crashed on takeoff yesterday morning from a small southwest Colorado airport, killing at least two people and injuring NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol, his son Charles and an unidentified passenger.
The pilot and co-pilot were killed. Another Ebersol son, Teddy, 14, was missing. Police used helicopters to search for him late last night. The seat he had occupied also had not been found.
The CL-601 Challenger aircraft crashed at Montrose Regional Airport, just outside the ski resort of Telluride in southwest Colorado.
Authorities said the plane was carrying six when it smashed into a fence, then punched through brush, cedar trees and finally a drainage ditch at the end of the runway.
Witnesses said the cockpit and a wing were ripped off as the plane skidded. Others said the plane burst into flames.
Montrose Memorial Hospital officials would not elaborate on the conditions of those who were hurt, but sources familiar with the situation said Dick Ebersol's injuries appeared to be serious but not life-threatening.
Leann Tobin, a hospital spokeswoman, said the plane "essentially exploded," causing injuries too severe for the hospital to handle. The three survivors were transferred to medical facilities in Grand Junction and Denver.
Investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Safety Transportation Board headed for the airport, 185 miles southwest of Denver. The investigation could take months, officials said. The pilot and the co-pilot were not identified.
A network source said Dick Ebersol, 57, flew from Los Angeles with his wife, actress Susan Saint James, Teddy and Charles.
Ebersol had been in Los Angeles for Thanksgiving and for the USC-Notre Dame football game Saturday. He was believed to have flown with his wife and the two sons to Telluride yesterday, where he dropped off his wife. The others were to fly to South Bend, Ind., later that morning. Charles Ebersol is a senior at the University of Notre Dame.
FAA regional spokesman Allen Kenitzer said the plane was departing for South Bend about 10:15 a.m. in light snow when the accident occurred. A storm had dumped about 3 feet of snow on Telluride before the accident.
"It crashed on, or shortly after, takeoff and went through a fence at the end of the runway," Kenitzer said. "I'm not sure if weather played a role; that's what the investigation will tell us."
Dick Ebersol is a creative and financially astute television executive, according to peers and rivals.
In recent years, NBC Sports has dropped out of costly rights-paying arrangements with such properties as the NFL, the NBA and Major League Baseball.
Ebersol and other NBC executives had come to share the belief that changes in the television landscape, including the onset of the cable universe, had so changed the nature of the business that it would become far more problematic to make a profit with pro football, basketball and baseball.
Under Ebersol, NBC has pursued a different course - for instance, locking up the rights to be the sole U.S. broadcaster of the Olympic Games from 2000 through 2012, in a sequence of landmark deals that total $5.7 billion.
Los Angeles Times staff writer Meg James contributed to this article. The Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.