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On August 2, 1994, about 1845 central daylight time, a Piper PA- 25-25 airplane, N6440Z, operated by Simpson's Air Service, Inc., of Dover, Delaware, was destroyed during takeoff from a private airstrip near Decatur, Nebraska. The private pilot and the sole passenger sustained fatal injuries. A witness sustained serious injuries during a rescue attempt. No flight plan was filed for the personal flight conducted under CFR part 91, and visual meteorological conditions prevailed.
The pilot's cousin reported the pilot had been spraying fields in the local area. He landed the airplane to pick up the passenger and give him a ride.
A witness to the accident reported the airplane took off to the south and climbed above the level of the surrounding cornfield. She said the plane made a sharp right turn then dropped, almost nose down, into the field. A postimpact fire ensued.
INJURIES TO PERSONS
According to a statement prepared by the Burt County Sheriff's Office, the pilot's mother witnessed the accident and ran to the accident site. During the rescue attempt, she sustained severe burns to the upper portion of her body and had to evacuate the site. She was subsequently air-evacuated and hospitalized.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The NTSB on scene investigation began at 1200, on August, 3. The wreckage was located in a corn field about 300 feet west and 500 feet north of the intersection of Nebraska routes R and 42. The corn surrounding the site was charred with no evidence of other physical damage except in the immediate vicinity where the wreckage was located. A strong smell of herbicides was present at the site.
The primary structure of the airplane was oriented on a heading of 030 degrees. About 50 yards in front of the airplane, a center pivot irrigation system was oriented from southwest to northeast. The irrigation system was estimated to be 16 feet high.
Except for the outer wings, the entire airplane was burned and charred. Puddled aluminum was apparent throughout the forward fuselage, and no evidence of in-flight fire was detected. The right main landing gear leg attachment bolts were sheared. The left gear leg was bent aft. Compression marks in the soil were visible immediately below the leading edges of both wings. The leading edges were crushed aft several inches at an angle corresponding to 45 degrees nose down pitch. The outer seven feet of the right wing was crushed aft at a 30 degree angle.
A horizontal impression of the spinner and propeller was located in the soil about two feet in front of the nose. The metal, fixed pitch propeller was slightly bent with no evidence of torsional bending and no chordwise scratches. The spinner was crushed aft with no evidence of rotational damage.
The composite fuel and hopper tanks were shattered and burned. The fuel shutoff valve was in the open position, the strainer was clean, and all fuel lines were melted. Except for the primary steel tubing structure, the cockpit and instrument panel were destroyed by fire. The seat belt was melted and the latch was in the open position. The engine mount was compressed several inches upward and aft. Examination of the airplane structure, engine control continuity, and flight control continuity revealed no evidence of preimpact malfunction.
The wreckage was transported to a hangar at the Tekamah Municipal Airport for further examination. The main fuel strainer was dry and the screen was about 10 percent congested with debris. The engine had minor impact damage and was burned. The spark plugs were slightly worn. The cases of both magnetos were melted. The carburetor finger strainer was about 5 percent congested with debris. The composite float was charred and cracked and the bowl was dry. The main jet was about 30 percent congested with charred debris. Examination of engine continuity revealed no evidence of malfunction.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The autopsy was performed at the Douglas County Morgue, Omaha, Nebraska, on August 3, at 1000.
Toxicological testing of the pilot was performed by the Creighton University Department of Pathology, Omaha, Nebraska. Carbon Monoxide was measured at 3.5 percent. Drug screen results yielded positive for ibuprofen, caffeine, nicotine, and cotinine.
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) toxicological testing yielded positive results for marijuana, amphetamines, and methamphetamine.
The FAA, Flight Standards District Office, Lincoln, Nebraska, was a party to the investigation.
Following the on-scene investigation, the wreckage was released to a friend of the pilot.