NTSB Identification: LAX99LA068.
The docket is stored in the Docket Management System (DMS). Please contact Records Management Division
Accident occurred Friday, December 25, 1998 in THERMAL, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/17/2001
Aircraft: Piper PA-28, registration: N7776W
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.

On a cross-country flight the aircraft entered an uncontrolled descent, impacted a lake, and sank. The wreckage was not recovered; however, both occupants were eventually recovered from the lake over a 2-month period. Review of recorded radar data identified the aircraft as it departed and flew to a point over the lake. About 1343, the target started a high vertical rate descent from 6,500 feet to 3,100 feet, where the mode C report stopped, in 1 minute 36 seconds. The recorded data lost the beacon code at this altitude but two primary targets remained. The last hit was at 1344. Its location was 33 degrees 28 minutes north latitude and 115 degrees 37.9 minutes west longitude over the northern end of the lake. The pilot did not have a pilot certificate or current medical certificate. The date of his most recent application for medical certificate, which was recalled by the FAA, was July 15, 1997. This application listed 800 hours to date and 100 hours in the last 6 months. Numerous medical certificate applications were denied by the FAA throughout the 1980's and early 1990's due to a history of heart problems. His medical records contained a history of heart problems. The autopsy report noted long term atherosclerotic disease in the right coronary artery and a blood clot in the right coronary artery that was several days old. The report noted limited injuries to the upper extremities. The pilot's wife was not a pilot. The autopsy report on the pilot's wife noted substantial upper and lower extremity injuries consistent with control manipulation at impact. The pilot's toxicology report showed Pseudoephedrine and Ephedrine in his tissue samples. Both can result in increased heart rate, constriction of blood vessels, and an increase in blood pressure. The effects could increase the risk of a heart attack in someone with significant coronary artery disease.

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

The occurrence of an in-flight incapacitating heart rhythm to the pilot. A factor was the pilot's ingestion of over-the-counter medications that made him more susceptible to an abnormal heart rhythm.

Full narrative available

Index for Dec1998 | Index of months