NTSB Identification: WPR13FA138
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, March 03, 2013 in Saratoga, WY
Aircraft: CESSNA 172M, registration: N5129R
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. 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.

On March 3, 2013, about 1558 mountain standard time, a Cessna 172M airplane, N5129R, impacted trees and snow covered mountainous terrain 11 nautical miles east northeast of Saratoga, Wyoming. The pilot was fatally injured and the airplane sustained substantial damage. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91, as a cross-country flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which operated on a visual flight rules (VFR) flight plan. The flight originated from Bryce Canyon Airport, Bryce Canyon, Utah, at about 1223.

A witness, who lives east of Saratoga, saw the airplane fly overhead in an easterly direction near the time of the accident. She stated that the airplane wasn't visible until directly overhead through an opening in the low and broken clouds. She stated that it was about 500 feet above the ground. The sound of the engine was heard continuing east, and subsequently headed north if it were to fly along the foothills of Pennock Mountain. She stated the foothills and Pennock Mountain were not visible because of the low clouds.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the estimated time of arrival for the flight was 1620, and was overdue at 1650. When the VFR flight plan was not closed, an INREQ (information request) was issued by the Prescott Flight Service Station, followed thereafter by an ALNOT (alert notice) at 1719. Meanwhile, the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC) received an emergency locator transmitter (ELT) signal at 1558 and contacted the Casper FSS and the Carbon County Sheriff's Office in Rawlins, Wyoming. The local search and rescue were contacted at about 1700. Search efforts were halted several times due to inaccurate ELT position estimates and deteriorating weather conditions. The airplane was located about 1249 on March 5, by an Air Force helicopter crew who used the reported ELT position to visually locate the airplane.

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