NTSB Identification: NYC98FA041.
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Accident occurred Thursday, December 11, 1997 in PITTSVILLE, MD
Probable Cause Approval Date: 10/30/1998
Aircraft: Piper PA-32-260, registration: N3448W
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.

The noninstrument-rated pilot and two passengers departed from an unlighted grass strip in night instrument meteorological conditions (IMC). A witness, who observed the takeoff, stated the ground visibility was 1,200 feet. A witness, who lived near the accident site, stated that he was in bed when he was awakened by the sound of an airplane approaching. He said the engine noise sounded constant, and after the airplane passed over his house, he heard a 'thud.' The main wreckage of the airplane came to rest in a wooded area, about 4.3 miles from the departure airport. Examination of the wreckage did not disclosed any preimpact malfunction. Toxicology tests of the pilot showed he had a blood/alcohol level of 102 mg/dl (0.102%) and a urine/alcohol level of 221 mg/dl (0.221%). Before flight, the pilot had been observed ingesting alcoholic beverages.

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 alcohol, his resultant improper planning/decision and flight in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC), and his failure to maintain sufficient altitude while flying over wooded terrain. Factors relating to the accident were: darkness, and the adverse weather conditions.

Full narrative available

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