SEA96LA146
SEA96LA146

On July 7, 1996, approximately 1700 Pacific daylight time, N28452, a Grumman American AA-5B, being operated by the owner/pilot, struck power lines, caught fire and subsequently collided with terrain near St. Maries, Idaho. The airplane burned following the wire strike and subsequent crash. The private pilot, who was the sole occupant, was fatally injured. No flight plan had been filed. The personal flight was conducted under 14 CFR 91.

According to the sheriff of Benewah County, Idaho, a low-flying complaint had been lodged with his office on N28452 approximately three days before the accident, and the airplane had been observed performing "low-altitude stunts" in the vicinity of St. Maries. On the day of the accident, witnesses reported to the sheriff that they observed the airplane flying at (in the words of one witness) "tree height [approximately 60 feet above ground level] making tight right and left sweeps following the turns in the [St. Joe] river." The witnesses reported that they then saw the airplane strike a power line crossing over the river, knocking the power line down into the river, and that following this wire strike, flames erupted from the aircraft. They stated that after the wire strike, the airplane continued approximately one mile further west, beginning a right turning climb and then turning back to the south. They reported that the airplane then struck a second power line, which ran east/west, and crashed into a field. Photos taken by deputy sheriffs who made the emergency response to the accident showed clear skies with unrestricted visibility at the accident site. These photos showed the aircraft wreckage still on fire. Photos taken by FAA investigators showed downed power lines in the accident area and sections of wire in the aircraft wreckage.

The FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI), Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicology tests on the pilot. The CAMI toxicology tests detected the presence of 0.028 ug/ml of tetrahydrocannabinol (marijuana) in the pilot's blood, 0.093 ug/ml of tetrahydrocannabinol carboxylic acid (marijuana) in the pilot's blood, and 0.869 ug/ml of tetrahydrocannabinol carboxylic acid (marijuana) in the pilot's urine. A toxicology specialist at the NTSB's headquarters in Washington, D.C. characterized these levels as "very high...supportive of heavy use of the drug", and that the levels were consistent with use of the drug "within a few minutes of the accident."

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