John Howard, 70, and Catherine Heveran, 56, both Sunnyvale residents, died in the crash along with 25-year-old James Chatham of Spokane, Wash., according to Gilpin County sheriff's spokeswoman Cherokee Blake. Howard and Heveran lived together but were not married and Chatham was the boyfriend of Heveran's daughter, said Blake.
One of Howard and Heveran’s neighbors in Sunnyvale told the Mercury News that the couple had been together for about four years and that Howard was an electrical engineer who had worked for HP and Fore Systems. They were believed to be in Colorado to visit family in the area.
The crash was reported shortly after 12:35 p.m. local time Wednesday when the sheriff's office received a call about smoke seen west of Boulder, Colo., Blake said. It took several days to identify the victims because the crash was so bad, Blake said.
US Forest Service officials were the first to arrive on scene and discovered a downed aircraft had caused the smoke.
The single-engine Beech Bonanza 35 plane had taken off from Boulder Municipal Airport in Colorado earlier Wednesday and was headed to Sunnyvale, Blake said.
Howard was piloting the aircraft, and was accompanied by Heveran and Chatham, who was a friend of Heveran's daughter, according to Blake.
The FAA says Howard was a licensed commercial pilot certified to fly with instruments alone, the Boulder Daily Camera reported.
The National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration are investigating what caused the crash. NTSB officials are scheduled to return to the crash site this weekend to continue their investigation, Blake said.
Bay City News contributed to this report.