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Body of Ebersol’s Son Found Under Airplane’s Wreckage

Times Staff Writer

After an exhaustive search, the body of 14-year-old Edward “Teddy” Ebersol, son of NBC Sports Chairman Dick Ebersol, was found Monday night under the wreckage of a charter jet that crashed at an airport in southwestern Colorado, officials said.

Montrose County Coroner Mark Young said a body matching Teddy Ebersol’s was found pinned beneath the aircraft; heavy equipment was needed to recover it.

“I’m not going to discuss the condition of the body out of respect for the family,” Young said during a news conference.

Teddy Ebersol was on the jet with his father and brother Charles, 21, when it crashed during takeoff at Montrose Regional Airport on Sunday morning.

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The plane, carrying six people, caught fire and plowed through a fence, some trees and into a ditch.

Dick and Charles Ebersol were injured and taken to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, Colo.

NBC spokesman Kevin Sullivan said Monday that both were listed in stable condition and were expected to make a full recovery. The hospital would not release any details.

Eyewitnesses reported seeing Charles Ebersol pull his father from the aircraft through a gap in the middle of the plane. Teddy Ebersol was missing, along with the seat he was occupying when the accident happened about 10:15 a.m.

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The pilot, identified as Luis Alberto Polanco Espaillet, 50, of the Dominican Republic, died on impact along with crew member Warren T. Richardson III, 36, from Coral Gables, Fla. The copilot, who was not identified, was in critical condition in a Denver hospital Monday.

After the crash, investigators began combing the nearby brush and sifting through the smoldering wreckage of the twin-engine jet trying to find Teddy Ebersol. There was speculation that he had been ejected from the aircraft.

Early Monday, Montrose Chief Deputy Coroner Matt Eilts said he did not expect to find the boy alive.

“We think [he] has probably perished in the crash and are waiting for the National [Transportation] Safety Board to further search through the wreckage,” Eilts said. “We searched into the night [Sunday] to find remains, but were unsuccessful. We do not believe we will find a survivor.”

When NTSB investigators arrived in the afternoon, searchers picked through the twisted metal, using a backhoe to remove the wreckage. The body was found about 7 p.m.

Scott Brownlee, manager of the Montrose airport, had little information about the cause of the accident. He said he didn’t know if the jet -- a CL601-1A Challenger -- had been de-iced before takeoff, but noted that he had seen another plane de-iced before it departed earlier that morning.

The Ebersols’ plane was taking off in snow and fog when it crashed. Ice buildup on the wings and other parts of an aircraft can make it unstable or too heavy to fly.

“It’s up to the individual airlines as to whether they de-ice or not,” Brownlee said. “And in the case of a corporate aircraft, it’s the pilot in command’s decision.”

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The CL601-1A Challenger can carry up to 19 passengers; the plane in question was registered to Jet Alliance of Millville, N.J., and had been built by Bombardier Aerospace of Montreal sometime between 1983 and 1987.

“The Challenger has one of the strongest safety records in corporate aviation,” said Leo Knaapen, spokesman for the Bombardier business aircraft division. “We have 635 Challengers flying worldwide; they have flown 2.7 million flight hours. It’s a very reliable, rugged aircraft.”

The Challengers have been in service for 24 years with two fatal accidents -- one in 1983 and another in 2002, Knaapen said. A total of seven people died in those accidents. The company has sent two representatives to Montrose.

Ebersol, 57, had been in Los Angeles over the Thanksgiving weekend and attended the USC-Notre Dame football game Saturday. Charles is a senior at the University of Notre Dame; a third Ebersol son, 18-year-old Willie, is a USC freshman.

Ebersol’s wife, actress Susan Saint James, flew with the family to Colorado on Sunday; they own a home in Telluride, about 40 miles south of the Montrose airport.

After dropping her off, Ebersol and their two sons boarded a jet for South Bend, Ind., to return Charles to Notre Dame before heading home to Litchfield, Conn.

Since the accident, Ebersol’s wife has been staying at St. Mary’s Hospital and has requested privacy for her family.

Ebersol became president of NBC Sports in 1989. Under his leadership, NBC bought the rights to be the sole U.S. broadcaster for the Olympic Games from 2000 to 2012 in deals totaling $5.7 billion. He has become known as “Mr. Olympics.”

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Peter Ueberroth, who heads the U.S. Olympic Committee, offered his sympathies in a statement Monday.

“The Olympic movement and the athletes of the world have no greater friend than Dick Ebersol,” he said.

“Dick has always said that what makes the Olympic Games special is not only the athletic competition, but the unique ability of this global event to unite families and friends, cultures and communities. During this somber hour, the Olympic family is united in offering our thoughts and prayers to all those involved in this tragic accident and their family members.”

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Associated Press contributed to this report.


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