NTSB Identification: WPR12FA230
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, May 26, 2012 in St. George, UT
Probable Cause Approval Date: 02/03/2014
Aircraft: CESSNA 172S, registration: N953SP
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.

Prior to the flight, the pilot and passengers were at a party, during which time the pilot and all but one passenger (the designated driver) consumed multiple alcoholic beverages. They left to go to another party and while en route, the vehicle was pulled over by a police officer. During the diversion, the group agreed to instead go to a nearby city to gamble.

The flight subsequently departed around 0120 with the airplane about 160 lbs. over its maximum gross weight. An airport video recording that captured the takeoff revealed that the airplane remained either on the ground or in ground effect for over two-thirds of the length of the runway, consistent with the pilot attempting to gain airspeed in the overweight airplane. The airplane then aggressively pitched nose up and climbed out of view of the camera. Seconds later, the airplane reappeared in a near-vertical descent into the dirt area at the end of the runway, most likely due to an aerodynamic stall during the steep climb.

A review of the pilot's toxicological tests found that the post-mortem blood ethanol level was 0.105 percent, which is more than twice the Federal Aviation Administration limit for civil aviators (0.04 percent). The evidence points to ingestion as the primary source of the ethanol in the pilot and implies that his pre-mortem ethanol level was high enough to significantly impair his judgment and psychomotor skills. It is likely that the pilot's consumption of alcohol preflight contributed to this accident. Postaccident examinations of the airframe and engine revealed no evidence of mechanical malfunctions or failures that would have precluded normal operation.

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

The pilot's failure to maintain adequate airspeed during an aggressive pitch-up maneuver, which resulted in a low-altitude aerodynamic stall shortly after takeoff. Contributing to the accident was the pilot's impairment from alcohol consumption and an over-gross-weight airplane.

Full narrative available

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