NTSB Identification: ATL97FA054.
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Accident occurred Monday, March 24, 1997 in MARCO ISLAND, FL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 01/30/1998
Aircraft: Beech V35, registration: N9049S
Injuries: 3 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.

After departing Marathon, Florida, the aircraft began to encounter instrument meteorological conditions. The pilot received an instrument clearance, including a convective SIGMET warning, and he continued on his flight to Punta Gorda, Florida. At 1907:43, radio contact with the pilot was lost, when the airplane was over the Gulf of Mexico about 20 miles southwest of Marco Island, Florida. Approximately 30 seconds later, radar contact was also lost. Reportedly, the weather in the area included extreme, intense, and very strong weather echoes. The last radar 'hit' of the airplane showed two distinct returns approximately 3/4 of a mile apart; an in-flight breakup of the airplane was presumed to have occurred. One occupant (a private pilot, who was fatally injured) and minimal airplane debris were recovered. The other 2 occupants were presumed to be fatally injured.

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

inadvertent flight by the pilot into adverse weather conditions (severe thunderstorms), which led the design stress limits of the airplane being exceeded, subsequent in-flight break-up of the airplane, and an uncontrolled collision with water.

Full narrative available

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