NTSB Identification: SEA97LA013.
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Accident occurred Saturday, October 12, 1996 in HURRICANE, UT
Probable Cause Approval Date: 03/31/1998
Aircraft: Keith VANS RV-6A, registration: N16DK
Injuries: 2 Fatal.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The pilot took off in dark night conditions. The private airport's pilot-controlled runway lighting controller was malfunctioning at the time, and this had been reported to airport users. The runway lights could be turned on manually upon request, but the president of the airport landowners association reported that the pilot did not request the lights to be turned on for the accident flight. He was current for night flight according to Federal Aviation Regulations, but had not flown at night for almost two months and had logged only 15.2 hours of total night flight time. A witness reported that the aircraft became airborne, and that about two minutes later there was a very loud 'thud' at which point the engine noise ceased. Investigators who responded to the accident scene found no evidence of aircraft or engine malfunction, and photographed the airplane's vertical speed indicator captured at a 1,900 foot per minute descent rate indication. Toxicology tests on the pilot detected 0.094 ug/ml diphenhydramine (Benadryl), a sedating antihistamine, in the pilot's blood, 0.152 ug/ml diphenhydramine in liver fluid, and 33.400 ug/ml acetaminophen (Tylenol) in lung fluid.

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

the pilot's impairment of judgment and performance due to drugs (diphenhydramine) which led to spatial disorientation and loss of aircraft control. Contributing to the accident were: dark night lighting conditions; inoperative airport runway lights; the pilot's inadequate preflight planning/preparation; and the pilot's lack of total experience in night flight.

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