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On July 27, 1997, about 1830 hours mountain standard time, a float equipped Piper J3C-85, N3339N, operated by Colorado River Seaplane Tours, collided with water while maneuvering over the Colorado River at Bullhead City, Arizona. The aircraft was destroyed in the water collision sequence. The owner/operator pilot and his passenger received fatal injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the local area for hire sightseeing flight, and no flight plan was filed.
The pilot had been selling rides in the airplane while operating from an island on the Colorado River. According to a company representative, the passenger purchased a 15-minute ride in the vintage airplane.
Witnesses stated that the aircraft had been flying up and down the river about 40 to 50 feet during the day. They reported that the pilot would reverse course (180-degree turn) by pulling the nose up and then leveling out just above the water.
On November 12, 1982, the pilot received his commercial pilot rating for airplane single engine land and sea, and on August 17, 1995, received his airplane multiengine land and instrument rating. He held private pilot privileges for rotorcraft-helicopter. At the last application for an Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rating dated September 21, 1996, he reported a total flight time of 948 hours. According to the pilot's logbook as of the last log entry dated July 25, 1997, he had accumulated 1,386 total flight hours. There were 234 hours listed as airplane single engine sea.
According to FAA records in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, the current registration is pending. An application for registration by the pilot dated April 15, 1997, was recovered from the aircraft.
According to the airframe logbook, the last annual inspection occurred on May 25, 1997, about 46 hours prior to the accident.
A weather observation was obtained from the Bullhead City Airport contract control tower. At 1845 they were reporting: scattered clouds at 8,000 feet agl; visibility 20 statute miles; wind direction 090 degrees at 11 knots with gusts to 15 knots; and the altimeter was 29.70 inHg.
A landing aircraft near the accident time reported the winds at 060 degrees at 15 knots with a temperature of 97 degrees Fahrenheit.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The wreckage was first viewed in the river about 5 miles south of the accident area. The wreckage had drifted down river and was tied off by the Bullhead City Police Department watercraft officers. It was then towed ashore and all major components of the aircraft were accounted for. The wreckage was removed to a secure storage area where it was examined by the Safety Board with representatives from Piper aircraft and Continental Motors.
Control continuity was established during recovery from the water. Both fuel tanks were ruptured during the accident sequence. Fuel quantity/weight at the time of the accident is unknown. Witnesses reported seeing the pilot refuel the aircraft from 5-gallon cans during the operation from the island.
During the aircraft and engine examination at the storage area, engine cylinder compression was established. The magnetos produced spark; the oil screen was examined for contaminants; and there were valve train and gear continuity. The carburetor was opened and examined and the fuel screen was clean. The mixture control was broken from the body. The carburetor heat control was still attached to the door arm. The air box was crushed but intact. The propeller examination revealed one blade exhibited chordwise striations and leading edge damage with aft bending. One blade was relatively undamaged.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
After the accident the pilot and passenger were both transported to the Bullhead City Community Hospital where they were pronounced dead. There were no toxicological samples taken at any time prior to the autopsy.
On July 30, 1997, the Mohave County Medical Examiner performed an autopsy on the pilot. Samples were obtained for toxicological analysis by the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
The results of the analysis were negative for carbon monoxide and cyanide. The analysis was positive for ethanol, tetrahydrocannabinol carboxylic acid, and Diphenhydramine. Details of the analysis is included in this report.
The pilot, d.b.a. Colorado River Seaplane Tours, had a Bullhead City business license No. 007286, issued on July 9, 1997.
The prior owner/operator of the aircraft had a letter of agreement (LOA) with the Bullhead City Airport contract control tower to takeoff or land only in the airport's traffic area (Colorado River) without radio. The accident pilot did not have an LOA for his operations with the tower. The aircraft was operating/based within the airport traffic area at a public beach.