NTSB Identification: CHI96FA038.
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Accident occurred Thursday, November 23, 1995 in BELVIDERE, SD
Probable Cause Approval Date: 07/18/1996
Aircraft: Piper PA-28-201T, registration: N3966M
Injuries: 4 Fatal.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

During a weather briefing, the pilot was advised that 'the forecast across South Dakota for the eastern third of the state 2,500 AGL scattered to broken with 5,000 overcast with occasional visibilities three to five miles in light snow....' During the flight the airplane experienced an in-flight breakup. The wings were fractured at the roots with evidence of positive overload. The empennage was separated from the tail cone with evidence of torsional overload. According to local residents, 'low' visibility existed in the vicinity of the accident due to fog and blowing snow. Airplane weight and balance calculations indicate the center of gravity was beyond the aft center of gravity limit. Toxicological tests detected dextromethorphan in the liver fliud (0.009 ug/ml) and kidney fluid (0.007 ug/ml). Pseudoephedrine was also detected in liver fluid. Additionally, a substance was detected, but not quantified, which according to the manager of the FAA Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory 'appears to be an ergotamine type compound.' Examination of the pilot's personal medical records revealed medical treatment for an 'asthma flare' 17 days prior to the accident.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:

the pilot's attempted visual flight into instrument meteorological conditions, his failure to maintain control of the airplane, and exceeding the design stress limits of the airplane. Factors in the accident were: the snow and fog, and the aft airplane center of gravity.

Full narrative available

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