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On February 8, 1995, approximately 1950 mountain standard time, a Cessna 177RG, N33MR, was destroyed while maneuvering near Larkspur, Colorado. The non-instrument rated private pilot was fatally injured. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed.
According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records, the pilot made radio contacts with the Denver Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS) at 1718, 1729, and 1741. He was told that VFR flight was not recommended along his route of flight because pilots had reported cloud bases were "on the ground." He was also advised of forecast turbulence and icing conditions in clouds and precipitation along his route. The pilot landed at Colorado Springs due to deteriorating weather conditions and obtained three telephone weather briefings from the Denver AFSS at 1820, 1912, and 1927. During the last briefing, the pilot was told that although visual meteorological conditions existed at both Colorado Springs and Centennial Airports, there was a band of level one precipitation across his route of flight.
According to the pilot's wife, he telephoned her about 1845 and asked her about weather conditions at home. She said at the time it was clear.
The pilot did not file a flight plan and departed Colorado Springs at 1937 for the approximate 30 minute flight to Centennial Airport He was given radar services to exit the terminal radar service area (TRSA). Radar services were terminated at 1946.
At about the same time, a witness heard a low flying airplane pass over his house. Shortly thereafter, he heard a loud noise and observed a fire through his back window. The witness said it was snowing heavily at the time and he could not see Interstate Highway 25, about 1/4-mile away. Another citizen in the area reported that when he tried to drive to town at 1955, he had to scrape 1/32 to 1/16-inch thick ice from his windshield.
At the time of the accident, the following weather conditions existed at Colorado Springs (COS) and Centennial (APA) Airports:
COS (1945): Measured ceiling 2,900 feet overcast; visibility greater than 10 miles; light rain; temperature 35 degrees F.; dew point 30 degrees F.; wind 350 degrees at 13 knots; altimeter setting 30.03 inches of mercury.
APA (1945): Estimated ceiling 9,000 feet broken, 13,000 feet overcast; visibility 25 miles; temperature 34 degrees F.; dew point 20 degrees F.; wind 330 degrees at 5 knots; altimeter setting 30.08 inches of mercury.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
Examination of the accident site disclosed a 32-foot swath through small scrub trees, aligned on a magnetic heading of 300 degrees. This swath terminated at a foot-deep ground crater, measuring 10 feet x 5 feet. Wreckage was strewn an additional 251 feet on a magnetic heading of 280 degrees. At the 67-foot mark were the cabin doors, a propeller blade, and the right flap. Between the 138-foot and 170-foot marks were the inverted left and right wings. The propeller hub with the attached second blade was found at the 170-foot mark. The inverted cabin and empennage were at the 202-foot mark. The engine, the furthest piece of wreckage, was located at the 251-foot mark.
An on-site disassembly of the vacuum pump and artificial horizon revealed an intact shaft and vanes on the former, and a circumferential score on the gyro just above the buckets, and scoring and a gouge on the inside of the case on the latter.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was conducted by Dr. Ben Galloway of the Denver Coroner's Office. According to the toxicology report submitted by FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI), lung fluid tests revealed 17.000 mg/dl (0.017%) ethanol, 3.000 mg/dl acetaldehyde, 3.000 mg/dl 1-butanol, and 2.000 mg/dl isobutanol. According to a CAMI spokesman, acetaldehyde is a metabolite that is reported only when there is evidence of putrefaction or sample contamination. Isobutanol and 1-butanol is further evidence of putrefaction that would account for the trace amount of ethanol detected.
The wreckage was released to a representative of the owner's estate on February 9, 1995.