NTSB Identification: LAX02FA131.
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Accident occurred Saturday, April 06, 2002 in Three Rivers, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 07/29/2004
Aircraft: Piper PA-28-180, registration: N7839W
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 airplane collided with trees and mountainous terrain during a personal flight over Sequoia National Park. The noninstrument rated pilot and three passengers departed for a flight around Sequoia National Park. When the flight failed to return, a search was initiated, with aerial search efforts hampered by prevailing cloud cover over the mountainous park. Four days later, a military helicopter located the accident site about 5,900 feet msl. The accident site was located in tall timber with occasional snow beds. Park service officials reported that on the day of the accident cloud cover existed in the park over the area of the accident site with bases estimated about 5,000 feet msl. Fragmented wreckage was scattered along a 090-degree magnetic heading about 150 feet. A fire had consumed the center section of the airplane. The wing panel leading edges revealed near perpendicular 12- and 18-inch semicircular radius impacts dimensionally similar to the surrounding trees. Tree bark material transfers were noted in the impressions. The wing panels and landing gears were severed from their corresponding structural attach points. One propeller blade had light damage and the other had major damage with trailing edge "S" bending and the loss of 4 inches of blade tip. Subsequent examination of the airframe and engine disclosed no preimpact anomalies.

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

the pilot's attempt to continue visual flight in instrument meteorological conditions in mountainous terrain. Contributing factors were low ceiling and mountainous terrain.

Full narrative available

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