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On July 24, 1996, about 1115 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-28-181, N84280, was destroyed when it impacted the Atlantic Ocean, near Sea Bright, New Jersey. The private pilot was fatally injured. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed for the local flight that departed the Belmare/Farmingdale Airport, Allaire, New Jersey. No flight plan had been filed for the personal flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.
Witnesses stated they heard the airplane circling overhead, and that the engine sounded loud. They estimated the visibility was about 11/2 miles with fog. One witness reported seeing the airplane enter the fog, followed by the airplane impacting the water vertically, in a nose down attitude. The engine noise was heard throughout the descent.
One witness stated that he heard the airplane's engine overhead. It was very foggy, and he could not see the airplane, until it flew through a break in the fog. The airplane was northbound when in entered some fog. The airplane then made an abrupt 180 degree turn, followed by an impact with the water. He observed the airplane just prior to impact and stated that the airplane was intact.
The accident occurred during the hours of daylight about 40 degrees, 20 minutes north latitude, and 73 degrees, 48 minutes west longitude.
A Coast Guard helicopter pilot reported that when he arrived at the accident, the visibility was about 3 to 4 miles with fog, and the sky was obscured through 900 feet. Witnesses in the area reported that at the time of the accident, the visibility was between 1 and 2 miles with fog.
There was no record of the pilot receiving a weather briefing prior to the accident flight. A review of the area and terminal weather forecasts for northern New Jersey and New York Coastal Waters revealed that there was an AIRMET (Airman's Meteorological Information) Sierra, second update, issued at 0945, valid through 1600. The AIRMET stated:
"AIRMET IFR. . .ME NH VT MA RI CT NY PA NJ AND CSTL WTRS FROM CAR TO YSJ TO 200SE ACK TO 160ESE SBY TO ACY TO 35SE HAR TO AVP TO MPV TO CAR. OCNL CIG BLW 010/VIS BLW 3SM PCPN/FG/BR. CONDS ENDG MOST LAND AREA BY 16-17Z. . .ENDG ERN PTSN MA 20Z. CSTL WTRS CONTG BYD 20Z ENDG BY 02Z."
An amended terminal area forecast for the John F. Kennedy International Airport (FJK), New York, New York, issued at 0903, valid through July 25, 0800, forecasted 1 mile visibility with mist, and a broken layer of clouds at 300 feet; temporarily between 0900 and 1100, 5 miles visibility with haze, and a scattered layer of clouds at 800 feet.
The METAR's (Aviation Routine Weather Report) for JFK were as follows:
JFK recorded 0851; visibility 1 mile with mist; ceiling 300 feet broken; remarks: surface visibility 1 1/2 miles.
JFK recorded 0951; visibility 2 1/2 miles with mist; ceiling 300 feet broken; remarks: surface visibility 2 miles.
JFK recorded 1051; visibility 6 miles with mist; few clouds 800 feet; scattered clouds 2,300 feet.
JFK recorded 1151; visibility 7 miles; scattered clouds 2,200 feet.
The airplane was located in about 150 feet of water, approximately 7 miles off shore, from Sea Bright, New Jersey. The United States Coast Guard, Group Sandy Hook, Sandy Hook, New Jersey, reported that there was a large fuel spill on the Ocean's surface. A continuing fuel flow to the surface assisted in locating the wreckage.
During the wreckage recovery, portions of the cockpit, including the flight instruments, left wing, and a portion of the right wing were not recovered. The wreckage was examined on July 25 and 26, 1996. During the examination, control continuity was confirmed from the stabilator and rudder through the cockpit area. Control continuity was not confirmed to the ailerons due to wing separation; however, the aileron cables were still attached to their respective bell cranks. Aileron continuity was confirmed from the aileron bell cranks through the cockpit area.
Examination of the engine revealed that the carburetor, starter, and alternator were missing. Further examination revealed that the tachometer needle indicated 2,750 RPM, and the tachometer indicated a total of 1,453.6 hours. When the tachometer needle was moved, a needle indentation mark was observed on the face of the instrument at 2,750 RPM. The tachometer cable was intact from the engine to the tachometer. Thumb compression was obtained on all cylinders by rotation of the crankshaft. Continuity was confirmed through the engine including the accessory drive train. Both propeller blades were bent rearward and had S bending. The left magneto was wet and did not produce spark. The right magneto case had separated and remained attached to the engine. The engine was equipped with fine wire spark plugs. Except for the bottom numbers 2 and 4 spark plugs, all were free of deposit buildups.
The airplane's airframe and engine logbooks were not located. A review of documents received from a maintenance facility revealed that the airplane had been operated a total of 99 hours since September 23, 1993, and about 12 hours over the last year. The last annual inspection was performed on July 28, 1995, at a total tachometer time of 1,441.9 hours. Examination of the wreckage did not disclose mechanical malfunctions with the airplane.
The pilot held a Private Pilot Certificate with a rating for single engine land. He was not instrument rated.
His most recent Federal Aviation Administration Third Class Medical Certificate was issued on July, 19, 1995. The pilot reported on his medical that his total flight time was 1,205 hours. The pilot's logbook was not recovered.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed on the pilot, on July 25, 1996, by Dr. Jay A. Peacock, M.D., First Assistant Medical Examiner, Office of the Medical Examiner, County of Monmouth, New Jersey.
The toxicological testing report from the FAA Toxicology Accident Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was negative for drugs and positive for Ethanol, Acetaldehyde, and Acetone, for the pilot. The report stated: "The ethanol found in this case is most likely from postmortem ethanol production."
In a report submitted by the salvage crew, it stated:
"The first diver entered the water and began the search as planned. Upon resurfacing the diver reported the bottom littered with small pieces of debris at our marker. He advised he searched to the northwest as planned and found an aviation headset which he returned to the surface. Before running out of bottom time he discovered a large piece of crumbled aluminum, possibly a wing and portion of the cockpit (This wreckage was not recovered), approximately 200 feet upcurrent to the northwest from our marker.
The second dive team entered the water and continued the search from the point where the first diver stopped. They continued northwest and discovered the main part of the wreckage which they described as very badly damaged, hardly looking like a plane, with the exception of the tail which was bent up over the fuselage."
The insurance adjuster sent a memo to the NTSB investigator in response to a request for the recovery of the remaining wreckage. This included the left wing, a portion of the right wing, and portions of the cockpit. In the memo, it stated:
"This is to formally advise you that at the present time AIG Aviation has no plans to make future recovery efforts. We understand that parts of the a/c [aircraft] were not recovered."
The wreckage was released on July 26, 1996, to Mr. John Watson, a representative of the owner's insurance company.