NTSB Identification: ATL01FA105.
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Accident occurred Saturday, September 08, 2001 in Byhalia, MS
Probable Cause Approval Date: 01/16/2003
Aircraft: Piper PA-32R-301, registration: N8398Z
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 Piper PA-32R-301, experienced an in-flight break-up while maneuvering near a thunderstorm in Byhalia, Mississippi. Examination of radar data revealed that between 15:42:02 and 15:53:01 the airplane made about seven altitude, airspeed and heading changes. The most significant excursion occurred between 15:52:43 and 15:53:01. Within this 18 second time frame, the airplane descended from 7,700 feet AGL to 3,900 feet AGL and slowed to 41 knots airspeed. According to witnesses, when they observed the airplane it was in level flight below the clouds. They said that as they observed the airplane they saw the left wing separate and strike the tail section. The airplane's main fuselage came to rest less then a half mile from their location in a bean field with debris falling and nearly striking the witnesses. The witnesses stated that there was lightning to the north and that the weather at their location was windy but there was no rain or thunderstorms in their area at the time of the accident. A toxicology examination of the pilot and passenger found Benzoylecgonine and Cocaine in their Liver and kidney's.

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

The pilot's improper evaluation of weather conditions which lead to an inflight encounter with turbulent weather resulting in an in flight break up of the airframe, and subsequent uncontrolled descent into terrain. A factor was the pilot's drug impairment.

Full narrative available

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