NTSB Identification: ATL02FA051.
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Accident occurred Saturday, February 23, 2002 in Vero Beach, FL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 11/25/2003
Aircraft: Piper PA-28-180, registration: N7345W
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.

At 1117 the pilot called Miami Center stating that he was leaving 4,500 feet for 5,000 feet. At 1140 Miami Center advised the pilot several times that radar contact was lost, but there was no response, and there was no further contact with the pilot. Examination of the wreckage on-scene, found the cockpit, engine, and a small portion of the aft empennage in a confined area with the cockpit and instruments fire damaged. The wings, vertical stabilizer, horizontal stabilator, and pieces of the empennage were found scattered within 500 feet of the cockpit area. The right aileron and flap, were not located. A review of available weather data showed that a frontal boundary was situated in the vicinity of the accident location. The Melbourne Doppler radar indicated that a moderate rain shower was near the accident location at the accident time. In addition, the radar's Velocity Azimuth Display wind profiles around the accident time indicated that the wind below 3,000 feet was from the north-northeast and the wind at 5,000 feet was from the south at 15-20 knots producing updrafts of localized severe to extreme turbulence. Pilot reports indicated that Instrument Meteorological Conditions were present in the accident area.

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

The flight's encounter with isolated severe to extreme turbulence that resulted in an in-flight breakup of the airplane and subsequent impact with terrain.

Full narrative available

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