Thermopolis Independent Record - Your source for news in Hot Springs County

By Lara Love
Publisher & Editor 

Preliminary airplane accident report issued by NTSB


The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has issued a preliminary accident report detailing the circumstances of the crash of a two-person airplane in northern Wyoming on Dec. 7 that took the life of pilot Grant Belden of Thermopolis on his 34th birthday. Passenger Miles Hausner, of Worland, is reportedly in stable condition in a Billings, Mont. hospital.

Belden worked as a wildlife specialist with the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) since 2007. He graduated from Hot Springs County High School in 2001. He is survived by his wife and two young sons.

The NTSB report states “On December 7, 2016, about 1015 (10:15 a.m.) mountain standard time, a Cub CraftersPA18-150 airplane, N444GB, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain while maneuvering 15 miles southwest of Basin, Wyoming. The commercial pilot was fatally injured and commercial-certificated crewmember was seriously injured. The airplane was owned by the Wyoming Wool Growers Association and operated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as a public use flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) flight plan had been filed for the flight. The animal damage management flight departed Worland Municipal Airport (WRL), Worland, Wyoming, about 0800 (8 a.m.).”

On Dec. 7, the Big Horn County Sheriff’s office released information regarding the search for a downed aircraft. Once the airplane was located, Hausner was flown to Billings for medical treatment, while Belden died at the scene of the crash.

The NTSB report goes onto say, “According to the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Wildlife Services ground crew that supported the flight, the airplane arrived in the area around 0820 (8:20 a.m.) for animal damage management. The crew members were located west, north, and east of the area where the airplane was operating. Crew members had visual contact, voice communication, and/or audio contact (they could hear the airplane operating) until about 1000 (10 a.m.). About 1015 (10:15 a.m.), the ground crew attempted to contact the airplane to change the area of focus without a response from the airplane. The ground crew tried multiple locations and means to contact the plane without success. At 1100 (11:00 a.m.) the agency search and rescue plane was activated and about 1330 (1:30 p.m.) the airplane was located by aerial search and rescue teams.

“The wreckage was located within steep hilly terrain, just below the ridge line that extended from northeast to southwest, increasing in elevation to the south. The airplane wreckage included the fuselage, empennage, both wings, and the engine and propeller assembly. The airplane came to rest nearly vertical with the right wing uphill and the left wing downhill. The propeller separated from the engine and was directly beneath the wreckage. Weather at WRL, located 28 miles southeast of the accident site was recorded at 0953 (9:53 a.m.) as wind 340 degrees at 8 knots, visibility 10 miles, sky condition 6,000 feet overcast, temperature minus 13 degrees Celsius (C), dewpoint temperature minus 18 degrees C, altimeter setting 30.57 inches of mercury. Weather at Yellowstone Regional Airport (COD), Cody, Wyoming, located 38 miles northwest of the accident site was recorded at 0953 (9:53 a.m.) as wind 350 degrees at 8 knots, visibility 10 miles, sky condition 6,500 feet overcast, temperature minus 13 degrees C, dewpoint temperature minus 19 degrees C, altimeter setting 30.35 inches of mercury.”

The investigator in charge is Jennifer Rodi with NTSB. She was on-scene Dec. 8 when the airplane was transported to Colorado where the investigation will continue. The final report on the accident could take up to a year.

The full NTSB preliminary report is available online at

A Go Fund Me account has been set up for the family to help with immediate expenses. To donate, visit and search for Grant Belden Family Fund.

The Go Fund Me account was set up by Emily Burrell. Her husband, Michael, is a coworker and friend of Beldens. The donation page states: “The true measure of man is his honesty, integrity and character; in this regard, Grant Belden was a giant man. Grant was tragically killed December. 7, 2016, on his 34th birthday, while performing work duties and doing one of the things he enjoyed the most, flying. Grant was an amazing father, husband, brother, son and friend.”

An account has also been set up at Bank of Thermopolis for memorial contributions going toward the children’s education.


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