Colorado police are searching for a pilot who nearly struck boats with his small plane before crashing it on Sept. 11. "The fact that someone would show such reckless disregard for the lives of others is concerning, but it's even more disturbing on a date that holds so much pain and significance for our country," said Larimer County Sheriff John Feyen this week, per the Denver Post. Pilot Ahmed El-Kaddah and a passenger were found with minor injuries after the Cessna 172M crashed near Horsetooth Mountain. El-Kaddah claimed the plane malfunctioned as he flew low over a reservoir so his brother could take in the scenery, according to a National Transportation Safety Board report, per the Colorado Sun.
But the NTSB found no evidence of mechanical malfunctions and determined El-Kaddah had made two low passes over two boats, a stunt known as buzzing, per the Washington Post. "The people down there were really scared," says photographer Stephanie Stamos, whose photos of the plane became central to the case. She says the plane came within feet of the water's surface and its wheels nearly touched a vessel. She also says it flew toward a paddleboarder. The sheriff's office cited additional video footage showing the plane "flying recklessly toward several boats" before crashing. The NTSB says the likely cause of the crash was pilot error.
The county district attorney's office has charged El-Kaddah, who is a flight instructor, with 11 misdemeanors: five counts of menacing and six counts of reckless endangerment. An arrest warrant has been issued. However, the 35-year-old is believed to have fled the US shortly after the crash and not returned, per the Denver Post. "The lack of legal accountability is frustrating to say the least, but in this and every case, we’ll continue to support victims and hold suspects accountable within the confines of the law," Feyen said, per the Sun. Anyone with information about El-Kaddah's whereabouts should contact the sheriff’s office. (Read more menacing stories.)