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Notre Dame senior Charlie Ebersol survives Colorado plane crash

Sam Davis | Monday, November 29, 2004

Notre Dame senior Charlie Ebersol and his father, NBC Sports Chairman and President Dick Ebersol, survived a charter plane crash that killed at least two people in Montrose, Colo. Sunday.

Both men were seriously injured when the private jet crashed on takeoff at Montrose Regional Airport, hitting a fence and bursting into flames, according to the Associated Press. The crash occurred at approximately 10 a.m. Mountain Standard Time and happened 185 miles southwest of Denver, near the Telluride Ski Area, according to the Bloomberg News Service.

Charlie Ebersol helped pull his father out through the front of the plane, which had been ripped apart from its cockpit, eyewitness Chuck Distel told the Associated Press.

A younger son, Teddy Ebersol, 14, was still missing from the wreckage Monday.

Local authorities conducted a thorough search for the boy Sunday night, but suspended their investigation until representatives from the National Transportation Safety Board arrive on the scene, Matt Eilts, chief deputy coroner for Montrose County, said Monday.

NTSB officials should reach Montrose Monday by noon Mountain Standard Time, Eilts said, but he added that investigators are not optimistic about the search’s outcome.

“We believe at this time that the boy has probably perished within the crash,” Eilts said in a press conference at the airport, broadcast nationally by CNN. “We don’t believe we will find a survivor.”

The area’s surface is covered by brush and cedar trees and contains a large drainage ditch, all of which were searched Sunday, Eilts said. Though the National Weather Service forecasted up to two feet of snow there by Sunday afternoon, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer told the Associated Press he did not know if the weather was a factor in the crash.

The plane skidded sideways after impact, ripping off the cockpit and one of the wings, Distel told the Associated Press. “There were two people outside the airplane when we pulled up. Both of them pretty much were in shock,” Distel said, describing the men as an “older gentleman” with gray straight hair and a “younger gentleman with shorter dark hair” walking around the wreckage.

The younger man cried and yelled “Oh my god, Oh my god,” Distel said, while the older gentleman remained silent.

Another eyewitness, Doug Percival, told the Montrose Daily News the younger man grabbed him and told him his brother was still inside the plane. The younger man said he and another passenger had been sitting in the back row of the plane, while his brother had been sitting in the fourth row, Percival said.

After the plane burst into flames, the younger man was able to climb into an ambulance while the older man, who Distel later identified as Dick Ebersol, was loaded onto a stretcher.

Dick and Charlie Ebersol and a third unidentified victim were taken to Montrose Memorial Hospital and transferred to different hospitals by Sunday afternoon, according to the Associated Press. Hospital officials declined to release specifics of the injuries or the victims’ conditions, but Eilts said the plane’s co-pilot was in critical condition at a Denver hospital.

The pilot and a flight attendant of the CL-601 Challenger plane, which was traveling to South Bend, were killed in the crash, according to the Associated Press.

Charlie Ebersol, 21, played a vocal role in Notre Dame student government, twice running for student body president and losing by narrow margins in 2003 and 2004. Ebersol served as manager of the Student Union Board and a member of the Council of Representatives during the 2003-04 term and was a key actor in the recent restructuring of student government.

A film, television and theatre major, Ebersol lived in Keough for two and half years before moving off-campus.

Dick Ebersol, 57, became president of NBC Sports in 1989, and was a chief negotiator in agreements to televise Notre Dame home football games on NBC. Most recently, he, University President Father Edward Malloy and athletic director Kevin White collaborated on a December 2003 contract extension that granted NBC rights to nationally broadcast the Irish through 2010.

Dick Ebersol also led NBC’s successful negotiations to televise the Olympics and NASCAR events, and in the early 1980’s he served as executive producer of Saturday Night Live.

His wife, actress Susan St. James, was not on the plane.

The Associated Press, Bloomberg News Service and the Montrose Daily Press contributed to this report.