History of Flight

On February 22, 1996, at 1405 hours Pacific standard time, a Piper J3C-65, N75772, collided with a radio tower near Elk Grove, California. The airplane was destroyed and the pilot and passenger received fatal injuries. The airplane was being operated as a personal flight under 14 CFR Part 91 when the accident occurred. The airplane departed a private ranch airstrip located about 1.28 nautical miles southeast of the tower minutes before the accident. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time.

Witnesses reported the airplane struck the KSTE radio tower and knocked it down. The tower was painted with alternate bands of aviation orange and white and is depicted on the San Francisco Aeronautical Sectional Chart.

Other damage included a small building and a security fence.

Pilot Information

The pilot held a private pilot certificate which was issued on December 20, 1987, with ratings for single and multiengine airplanes.

The most recent third-class medical certificate was issued to the pilot on April 6, 1996, and contained no limitations.

No personal flight records were located for the pilot, and the aeronautical experience listed in this report was obtained from a review of the airmen FAA records. The pilot reported a total time of 2,780 hours during his last medical exam. There was no evidence found of the pilot having completed a flight review since receiving a multiengine airplane rating on December 20, 1987.

Aircraft Information

The airplane was manufactured in 1945. According to the family, the pilot purchased the airplane in 1986 or 1987. The pilot failed to register the airplane after the purchase. Examination of the maintenance records provided to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) by the pilot's family revealed that the last annual inspection for the airframe and the engine was accomplished on May 17, 1986.

Wreckage and Impact Information

The airplane struck one of three 340-foot-high radio transmission towers about 37 feet from the top. The towers were located about 1.28 nautical miles northwest of the pilot's private ranch strip. The towers were marked as an obstruction to air navigation.

After the collision with the tower, the airplane's left wing and left landing gear separated. The airplane descended uncontrolled impacting a guy wire from the tower, and then the ground in a nose-down attitude. The guy wire entangled in the tail and remained attached to the airframe.

One of the left wing struts also separated and had leading edge crushing and buckling. The damaged area of the wing strut also had an aviation orange paint transfer.

Control continuity was established for all flight controls. The wooden propeller was splintered in a direction opposite to rotation.

The engine was buried in the ground. The oil sump assembly, the exhaust manifold, the intake tubes, and the carburetor were damaged from the impact with the ground. The propeller flange on the crankshaft was also bent.

The crankshaft was rotated and continuity of the engine gear train, valve train, and drive train was established. Fuel was found in the engine. It had an aroma consistent with that of automotive gasoline.

There was no evidence of mechanical failure or malfunction found during the examination of the airplane's wreckage.

Medical and Pathological Information

Post mortem examinations were conducted by the Sacramento County Coroner's Office with specimens retained for toxicological examination.

Blood samples obtained from the pilot were toxicologically tested by the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI). The blood tested negative for a drug screen which included ethanol, carbon monoxide, and cyanide, and a drug screen on the urine sample tested negative. A copy of the CAMI Report is attached.

Blood samples and urine obtained from the passenger were also toxicologically tested. The specimens tested negative for the drug screen.

Additional Information

The airplane was retrieved and released to Plains Parts by the Safety Board on April 3, 1996, pending the FAA's determination of aircraft ownership.

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