By Peter Mertz
ASPEN, United States, Jan. 6 (Xinhua) -- Authorities were still searching on Monday for clues to a fiery plane crash that left the pilot dead and two others injured Sunday in this remote, ultra- wealthy ski-resort town nested in the Rocky Mountains three hours west of Denver.
Two Hollywood celebrities were eyewitnesses to the horrific crash that initially was blamed on high winds and excessive landing speed, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which has closed the airport until future notice.
"Exploded into flames as it was landing," comedian Kevin Nealon of Saturday Night Live Tweeted.
Singer LeAnn Rimes Cibrian added, "So sad! Horrible plane crash we just saw happen."
According to the Pitkin County Sheriff's office, co-pilot Sergio Carranza Brabata, 54, of Mexico, was killed instantly in the crash.
The other two passengers were airlifted 130 miles away to St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction, where officials said that Miguel Henriquez was in critical condition and Moises Carranza in serious condition.
"The injuries were traumatic in nature, but they were not thermal," said Alex Burchetta from the Sheriff's office on Monday, adding "The fire never reached inside the cabin as far as we can tell."
Eyewitnesses said the private jet, approaching from the west, went off the side of the airport's only runway, flipped over and burst into flames. The plane, which originated in Mexico, made two attempts to land in high winds, officials said.
A transcript of the radio traffic prior to the crash said, " Missed approach, November one, one five Whiskey Fox. Three-three knots of tailwind."
"Fire truck and ambulances were on the scene within minutes," Nealon Tweeted. "I think I'll drive back to LA after seeing that."
Los Angeles is a 13-hour drive from Aspen, covering almost 1, 000 miles.
Sunday's weather in Aspen was overcast with temperatures around 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Winds were consistently 30 miles per hour, airport officials said.
"There's not a large margin for error in Aspen airport when you 've got a tailwind, you've got low weather. You have to know where the mountains are, you have to know what the approach is, but it can stack up on you pretty fast," ABC News aviation consultant John Nance said.
In recent years, several jets approaching the small airport have missed their mark and skidded off the runway. These incidents have occurred in winter months, when Aspen is flooded with skiers from around the world. In 2001, a private jet crashed at the airport, killing all 18 on board.