NTSB Identification: DEN01FA111.
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Accident occurred Tuesday, May 29, 2001 in Meeker, CO
Probable Cause Approval Date: 07/25/2002
Aircraft: Piper PA-28-161, registration: N5999V
Injuries: 4 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 pilot joined a flying club and got a checkout in a PA-28-161, an airplane which he had never flown before. He was told not to fly the airplane cross-country but to fly locally for an additional 5 hours. Although the airplane had been upgraded from a 160 to a 180 horsepower engine, he was told not to fly it with three adult passengers aboard. The pilot scheduled the airplane for 2 days. He obtained a "standard" weather briefing for a VFR flight from Reno, NV, to Hawthorne, NV, and an "outlook" weather briefing for Denver, CO. He filed a VFR flight plan to Hawthorne, but there is no record that he flew to Hawthorne. The airplane, with the pilot and 3 adult passengers on board, was reported missing. Six days later, fishermen found airplane debris floating in Upper Marvine Lake, located about 30 miles east of Meeker, CO. The debris was identified as having come from the missing airplane. The airplane had stopped in Meeker for fuel, and was en route to the Denver area. The wreckage was recovered, and examination disclosed no discrepancies with the airframe, engine, and propeller. The airplane was estimated to have been 111 pounds overweight when it departed Meeker, elevation 6,421 feet msl. Toxicological tests revealed the pilot had amphetamine and methamphetamine in blood and urine. The levels found in the blood were high, suggestive of regular use and probable addiction. The effects of methamphetamine include increased alertness, euphoria, insomnia, and increased self-confidence. Long-term use could lead to paranoia, loss of physical coordination, and weight loss. If use were to be discontinued, within hours a regular user might experience severe withdrawal symptoms, including depression, fatigue, abdominal cramps, and headache. Overdoses may result in loss of consciousness or seizures. Regular users can tolerate high doses. The levels found in the blood indicate the pilot had recently used methamphetamine and was impaired by its effect. This could have led him to attempt maneuvers beyond his abilities. Although possible but not likely, the pilot could have had an acute event resulting in incapacitation, such as fainting or seizure.

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

the pilot's failure to maintain terrain clearance as a result of his drug induced impairment. A factor was his exceeding the airplane's gross weight limits.

Full narrative available

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