On July 7, 1998, at 0635 central daylight time, a Piper PA-60-602P twin engine airplane, N6898Y, was substantially damaged when it impacted trees and terrain while attempting to return to land at the Jefferson County Airport, near Beaumont, Texas. The non-instrument rated private pilot/owner and his passenger were seriously injured. The airplane was registered to the W.H. Watkins Company, of Batesville, Mississippi. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the Title 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight for which an IFR flight plan was filed. The flight, which was destined for the Panola County Airport, near Batesville, Mississippi, was originating at the time of the accident.

According to personnel at the airport, an IFR flight plan was filed and a clearance was received for the 337 nautical mile flight. After departure from runway 12, approximately 200 feet above the ground, the pilot reported that a door had opened in flight and he was returning to the airport. The airplane impacted trees and terrain approximately one mile from the approach end of runway 30.

Examination of the wreckage by FAA inspectors who responded to the accident site revealed that the door for the unpressurized baggage compartment, which is located on the left side of fuselage, aft of the fuel cell, had damage consistent with an open door. The FAA inspector stated that physical evidence and ground signatures at the accident site revealed that the airplane impacted the ground at a high rate of descent, at relatively low forward speed. At the time of impact, the airplane was configured with the landing gear and flaps extended.

According to FAA records, the private pilot obtained his private pilot certificate on December 2, 1994. Additionally, the pilot had accumulated a total of 1,850 flight hours at the time of his last FAA medical examination on January 24, 1997. The pilot's level of experience in the accident airplane could not be determined; however, the investigation revealed that the 1982 model airplane was purchased by the company 4 months prior to the accident.

Despite several attempts to obtain a completed NTSB Form 6120.1/2, the pilot did not return the requested form.

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