NTSB Identification: FTW97FA181.
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Accident occurred Thursday, May 08, 1997 in INTRACOASTAL, LA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/29/1998
Aircraft: Cessna 172RG, registration: N6505V
Injuries: 1 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.

Outbound on a fish spotting flight (flt), the pilot (plt) made a distress call to other company plts that he did not feel well & was returning to the airport. He said he was getting sick & 'a little nauseated.' Radio contact was lost, & the airplane crashed in the Gulf of Mexico. Investigation revealed that before flt, the plt had breakfast, flew 4 hrs, attended a safety meeting & went to a health club. Company plts said he was upset from reprimands at the safety meeting, was stressed for monetary reasons, was worried about his job, & was concerned about his blood pressure, but would fly while fatigued or when not feeling well. Reportedly, he had not slept well the previous night. Following a partial workout & steam room session, he was seen holding his head in his hands outside the steam room; he said he stayed in the steam room too long & felt 'quizzy like was going to throw up, like over doing it.' He did not eat lunch, but rested before flt. The plt was noted to have high blood pressure, when he applied for a 2nd class medical certificate on 3/3/97. The certificate was issued after he was evaluated by a cardiologist & was prescribed Tenormin (atenolol) & Lipitor (atorvastatin). Tenormin is a medication that reduces resting & exercise heart rate & is acceptable to the FAA for control of blood pressure. Lipitor is a cholesterol-lowering agent. Toxicology testing revealed trace amounts of diphenhydramine (trade name Benadryl), an over-the-counter sedating antihistamine, in the plt's liver & kidney fluids.

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

the pilot's decision to fly, when he was not in good physical condition; and his subsequent loss of aircraft control due to incapacitation. A related factor was: the pilot's perception of an urgency (pressure) to fly, induced by conditions/events.

Full narrative available

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