NTSB Identification: DEN01FA028.
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Accident occurred Friday, December 15, 2000 in LUSK, WY
Probable Cause Approval Date: 09/20/2002
Aircraft: Cessna 172, registration: N4223F
Injuries: 2 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 non-instrument rated private pilot did not obtain a weather briefing for the dark night cross-country flight through an area where low ceilings and visibilities were becoming widespread. Air route traffic control center (ARTCC) radar data showed the airplane climbing to 8,000 feet msl toward its destination. Approximately 35 minutes after takeoff, the radar data showed the airplane began to maneuver and descend to 5,900 feet. Approximately 60 minutes after takeoff, the airplane maneuvered to within 3-4 miles of an airport. The last two radar hits showed the airplane making a right turn to the north. The last radar hit was 75 minutes after takeoff, at an altitude of 5,700 feet msl (about 700 feet agl). The airplane impacted rolling terrain at an elevation of 5,100 feet msl about 8.43 nautical miles east-northeast of the airport, which it had been maneuvering near. The emergency locator transmitter (ELT) activated and the local authorities were notified. The airplane wreckage was located the following morning. According to the local sheriff, the weather in the area was blizzard conditions, making it hard even for surface vehicles to maneuver. The wind was gusting to 65 mph, visibility was down to about 1,000 feet, and the ceiling was "very low." No anomalies were found with the airframe or engine that would have prevented normal operation. The pilot's toxicological tests were positive for tetrahydrocannabinol carboxylic acid (marihuana).

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

the pilot's VFR flight into instrument meteorological conditions, and his subsequent failure to maintain terrain clearance, which resulted in an in-flight collision with terrain. Contributing factors were the pilot's failure to obtain a weather briefing, low ceilings, snow, high winds, and dark night light conditions.

Full narrative available

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