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On July 5, 1995, approximately 2120 Alaska daylight time, a Piper PA-18 floatplane, N8324, sustained substantial damage when it collided with water while maneuvering in the vicinity of Nulato, Alaska. The airline transport pilot and one of his passengers were seriously injured. A second passenger riding in the extended baggage compartment was fatally injured. No flight plan was filed for the flight, which was operating under 14 CFR 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the scene of the accident. There was no fire and no report of the ELT actuating.
Witnesses described the aircraft flying upstream along the Yukon river at low altitude before pulling up in a steep turn, reversing course, and descending steeply into the river. The pilot stated that upon reaching Nulato, he began a climbing left turn to overfly the runway and village, then decided to make an 180 degree turn. He said he could not "say for certain if he had a power loss, but had never before noted any losses in turns prior to this flight. In the turn, it seemed [the] left wing lost lift and could not recover."
The pilot and one passenger escaped from the wreckage and were recovered by witnesses. The aircraft floated inverted by its floats after colliding with the water surface. Due to strong current, the airplane floated downstream into a barge. The barge crew attempted to recover the airplane; eventually a bulldozer was used to pull the airplane to shore. Once the airplane was partially out of the water, the fatally injured passenger was removed from the aircraft.
The airplane was equipped with two tandem seats. No evidence of a seat or seat restraints was found in the extended baggage compartment.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The aircraft was recovered from the Yukon River and was on shore at Nulato when investigators arrived.
The leading edge of the right wing was compressed aft toward the main spar along the entire length of the wing. The left wing showed similar compressing, and both wing struts were bent about 60-70 degrees at about their midpoint. The left wing also exhibited additional crushing over its surface. The fuselage was bent about 40 degrees to the left, aft of the left wing attachment point. The rudder and vertical fin were crushed above their midspan. The right elevator and horizontal stabilizer were bent near the tip. The engine was shifted aft against the firewall, and the nose cowling bowl was hydroformed and shredded around the front cylinders. The right float was bent upwards about 45 degrees, forward of the front spreader bar. The left float was separated into two pieces, with the separation forward of the front spreader bar. One propeller blade showed no apparent damage; the other blade was curled aft about 40 degrees, about a foot from the blade tip.
Control continuity of aileron, rudder, and elevator was established during on scene investigation. Trim was found to be about 1.5 turns from full nose down. Fuel was found in the right wing tank. The fuel selector was on the right tank, with a placard "30.5 gallons" noted by the selector.
The engine was inspected. Valve train continuity was established. Spark plugs were wet with water. The left magneto sparked. No contaminants were noted in the oil screen or the carburetor screen. No pre-crash mechanical discrepancies were noted.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
Toxicological testing of the pilot was not conducted. No autopsy was performed on the fatally injured passenger.
The wreckage was released to the Nulato Village Public Safety Officer on July 7, 1995 upon completion of the on-scene investigation at Nulato.