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On July 4, 1994, approximately 1558 hours mountain daylight time (mdt), a Piper J3C-65, N88114, registered to and being flown by Lewis W. Lindemer, was destroyed during an inflight collision with terrain while maneuvering near Seeley Lake, Montana. The pilot was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan had been filed. The flight, which was conducted to dispense ping pong balls to children at the Seeley Lake elementary school, was to have been operated in accordance with the requirements set forth in 14CFR91, and originated from the Seeley Lake Airport shortly before the accident.
A copy of a VHS format videotape of the accident was provided by the Missoula County Sheriff's Department. The tape began with the aircraft several hundred feet above ground at a relatively slow speed and commencing a right turn and descent. Throughout most of the descending turn the left aileron was observed deflected upwards to varying degrees and the right aileron was observed deflected in the opposite direction. The aircraft's engine could be heard throughout the descending turn as well.
There were numerous witnesses to the accident, several of which were interviewed by the Missoula County Sheriff's Department. They reported observing the aircraft's wings "swaying from side to side" (refer to statement of Tammy Walker) and the aircraft flying low and slow with a high angle of attack just before the crash (refer to statement of Jerome Teafoe).
Records maintained by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) indicated that the latest certificate action (issuance of a rating) for pilot Lindemer was dated June 22, 1967. The date of issue of his flight instructor's certificate was May 3, 1993. Additionally, pilot Lindemer possessed an airframe and powerplant license issued February 21, 1990. The total flight time reported as of his last medical was 4000 hours with 50 hours in the previous six months.
The pilot was occupying the rear seat of the aircraft at the time of the accident.
A piece of metal tubing approximately eight inches in diameter and several feet long was secured in the outboard "V" created by the junction of the right wing lower wing-to-fuselage struts and the vertical strut-to-wing braces (refer to photograph 04). The leading edge of the tube had been covered with a large mesh screen, which in turn, was partially covered by silver duct tape. A circular, metal, hinged flap at the rear of the tube was controlled from the cockpit by a lanyard which, when pulled, would allow it to swing open in flight discharging its contents. Witnesses reported that the tube was filled with ping pong balls which the pilot was dropping while in flight.
Witnesses reported light winds and cool temperatures at the time of the accident.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
A review of the previously described VHS videotape showed that the aircraft passed through the tops of conifer trees, impacted the edge of a 10 foot high chain link fence surrounding a double tennis court and then impacted the paved surface, skidding diagonally across the court and engaging a court net before sliding to a stop. The latitude and longitude of the site was 47 degrees 10.64 minutes north and 113 degrees 28.57 minutes west respectively, and the elevation of the site was approximately 4025 feet above mean sea level (refer to CHART I). Although there were numerous adults and school children within the 110 by 120 foot court, there were no injuries other than those of the pilot.
The aircraft came to rest on its belly with its undercarriage separated and lying in the northwest corner of the court (refer to photograph 01). The right outboard wing section was broken and the wing fabric was torn (refer to photograph 02). An approximate 30 degree upwards crush angle was noted beneath the engine and the elevator stabilator trim was positioned between neutral and nose up to (refer to photograph 03). The previously described ping pong ball dispensing tube was observed attached to the outboard right wing strut assembly and the rear flap was hanging open (refer to photograph 04).
Small fragments from the aircraft and its right wing were observed lying in the clear area between the north side of the tennis court and the stand of conifer trees. The ten foot high fence surrounding the north side of the court was deformed, as was one of the fence poles. There was yellow paint transfer on the northwest corner pole.
The magnetic bearing from the aircraft's final resting place back through the first ground impact marks, the fence and into the trees, was 300 degrees. The first evidence of ground impact was approximately 40 feet southeast of the northwest corner fence post. Three slash marks were observed within the pavement and roughly perpendicular to the 300 degree bearing line. The distance between the first and second slash marks was measured at 19.5 inches, while the distance between the second and third was 32.5 inches (refer to photograph 05). The trees on the north side of the court were approximately 40 feet in height (refer to photograph 06).
Both blades of the propeller were observed to display extensive tip curl and chordwise scratching and abrasions (refer to photographs 07 and 08). The aircraft was examined for any control or throttle/carburetor heat cable discontinuity and none was found. The carburetor heat box flapper valve was found in the fully closed position.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Post mortem examination of pilot Lindemer was conducted by Gary Dale, M.D., State Medical Examiner, State of Montana, Broadway Building, 554 West Broadway, 6th Floor, Missoula, Montana, 59802, on July 6, 1994.
Toxicological evaluation of samples from pilot Lindemer was conducted by the FAA's toxicology and research laboratory. All findings were negative (refer to attached report).
Examination of the crash site and wreckage was conducted on the afternoon of July 6, 1994. The wreckage had been secured by pilot Lindemer's family and was verbally released to them at the conclusion of its examination. Written wreckage release is documented on NSTB Form 6120.15 (attached).