A commercial pilot wanted in connection with the killing of his girlfriend in Colorado Springs tried to steal a commercial airplane early Tuesday at the St. George Municipal Airport (Utah), then committed suicide, investigators said. The man who shot and killed himself inside a commandeered SkyWest airplane early Tuesday was 40-year- old Brian Joseph Hedglin, St. George spokesman Mark Mortensen confirmed.
In Colorado Springs, police have been looking for Hedglin since Friday in connection with the death of his girlfriend, 39-year-old Christina Cornejo. Hedglin had previously been arrested for a harassment case involving Cornejo, but was free on bail, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette. The two had been dating for four years when she told him in March she wanted a break.
Friday, police were called to Cornejo’s apartment by a relative to perform a welfare check and found her dead inside. Just before 1 a.m. Tuesday, a security guard doing a routine check at the St. George Municipal Airport spotted a motorcycle parked next to the barbed wire gate that borders the airport property, Mortensen said. The engine was still warm.
He then noticed a rug thrown over the wire part of the fence as if someone had climbed over. Moments later, he heard a SkyWest CRJ200 aircraft start up. Hedglin first backed the plane up, Mortensen said, then moved forward, clipping the terminal. Somehow, the plane ended up in the parking lot and crashed into parked vehicles, he said.
Brian Hedgelin, who was wanted in connection with a stabbing murder in Colorado Springs, apparently stole a a plane and then shot himself while on board in St. George. No one on the ground was injured. The crash apparently prevented Hedglin from taking off.
Hedglin then shot himself once, killing himself inside the plane, Mortensen said. «The aircraft did sustain damage. The extent of the damage is currently being inspected by our maintenance and safety professionals,» SkyWest said in a prepared statement.
The plane was not in service at the time and there were no passengers on board. It was not immediately known how Hedglin gained access into the aircraft. Hedglin held a commercial airline pilot license and worked for SkyWest. The airline released a statement saying he was «on administrative leave» at the time of the accident.
«While the airport was closed overnight, a SkyWest aircraft at the St. George Municipal Airport in Utah was involved in a ground incident while the aircraft was not in service,» SkyWest said in a prepared statement. «Until the airport is reopened, passengers with Delta Connection flights to and from St. George are being re-accommodated on other flights as well as with ground transportation from nearby Cedar City.»
The FBI and St. George police are investigating the incident. «The FBI is on scene at the St. George Airport, along with St. George police and the TSA. We are conducting a joint investigation. We are still gathering facts, but it is important to note there is no ongoing public safety issue and the scene is under the control of law enforcement,» FBI spokeswoman Debbie Bertram said.
Mortensen said all commercial flights were cancelled until further notice. The private portion of the airport was still open. The St. George airport handles seven flights a day.
Both Cornejo and Hedglin were with the Colorado Army National Guard. Hedglin has been part-time with the Guard since 2008, said Colorado National Guard spokesman Capt. Darin Overstreet. He was a «food service specialist,» or a cook, he said. Hedglin participated in traditional National Guard drills, but was never deployed, Overstreet said. Cornejo was a full-time National Guard member, joining in 2006 and becoming an officer in 2011. She was part of the 100 Missile Defense Brigade, Overstreet said.