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On August 26, 1998, approximately 1030 Pacific daylight time, a float-equipped Cessna 172L, N1069M, registered to and operated by the pilot as a 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight, collided with sea-level terrain on a private island about 7 miles southwest of Anacortes, Washington. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and no flight plan was filed. The aircraft was substantially damaged. The commercial pilot was seriously injured. The passenger was fatally injured. The aircraft was last seen taxiing out of Cornet Bay, near Oak Harbor, Washington, about 30 minutes prior to the accident.
A boater, who was traveling southbound down the east side of Allan Island, stated that the overcast was about 400 to 500 feet above the water level. The visibility was from one-quarter to one-half mile. The boater stated that as he came around the inlet, he spotted the aircraft up against the rocks, and at first did not realize that an accident had occurred. The boater decided to have a closer look and as he neared the aircraft, he saw a person get out of the airplane, then go back in, then come back out. This person turned around to face the boater, and it was at this time that the boater knew that an accident had just occurred because of the injuries that were observed. The boater used a cell phone to call for help before going ashore to help the pilot. While on shore, the boater checked the occupant who was still in the airplane. The boater stated that this person was positioned with his lower body on the right seat and his upper body was laying over on the left seat. He did not observe if the seat belt was fastened. The boater stated when he asked the pilot what happened, the pilot stated "we were going too fast."
During an interview, the pilot reported that the aircraft was based at his home on Big Lake, Mount Vernon, Washington. The passenger met him that morning for a flight to Stuart Island. The passenger, a real estate agent, wanted to take aerial photos of some property. The pilot stated that the weather was good for the departure and flight west-bound at about 1,000 feet. The pilot stated that when they approached the Anacortes, Washington, area, the overcast layer lowered and he diverted southbound through La Conner, Washington, and landed at Cornet Bay (See Map). The pilot stated that they got a cup of coffee and then taxied out of Cornet Bay and step-taxied through Deception Pass. The pilot stated that the weather was still poor when they exited the pass and he turned north into Sharpe Cove and beached the airplane. The pilot recalls getting out of the airplane for a time, and noting the fog off shore. The pilot remembers leaving the cove, but was unsure as to the seating arrangement. He thought that maybe the passenger could have been sitting in the left seat because on previous flights, the passenger sat in the left seat to take aerial photos because the window opened on that side.
The pilot stated that he does not recall all of the events of the accident, however, what he does remember, and he was unsure if it was a memory or a dream, but he remembers trying to steer hard to the right, and the airplane seemed to be going to the left. The pilot stated that he thought that maybe he hit something in the water during the landing.
Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, located seven miles southeast of the accident site, was reporting the weather at 0955, as six miles visibility with a 500 foot overcast ceiling. At 1055, the visibility was reported as seven miles with a 700 foot overcast ceiling.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The wreckage was located on the shore of an inlet to a private island shortly after high tide. Approximately 18 feet of the beach was visible above the waterline. The aircraft was positioned on a northerly heading. The aircraft remained on both floats on this beach area, with the nose of the airplane positioned a few feet away from a nearly vertical rock outcropping. The aft ends of the floats were out of the water by about two feet. An impact signature on the rock was noted at approximately the same level as the propeller spinner. The surrounding terrain consisted of a gravel beach approximately 100 feet in length. The terrain on the left side of the airplane angled to the south. The left wing tip impacted and remained resting on the rock outcropping. The terrain on the right side of the airplane was upsloping loose gravel. Impact signatures indicate that the leading edge of the right wing impacted in this area.
The left wing remained attached at the root. The outer four feet of the wing was crushed rearward on an approximate 45 degree angle. The left flap and aileron remained attached at their respective hinges. The right wing remained partially attached at the root. The wing was broken downward with the tip resting near the ground. The lift strut was broken in half. Closer examination of the lift strut, at the separation points, indicated a localized impact along the leading edge that pushed the structure aft. Sand and dirt was imbedded in the paint, and shallow gouges were noted throughout the impact area. Approximately four inches inboard of the separation point, the lower section of the strut was buckled. Underside wing skin buckling was noted near the right wing root. The outboard eight feet of the right wing leading edge was crushed aft. Several impact points were noted along the crush line that scuffed and scratched the paint. Sandy dirt and dried grass was found imbedded in the rivet seams. The right flap and aileron remained attached at their respective hinges. Both flaps were extended ten degrees. Control system continuity was established from both wings to the cockpit.
The empennage was broken downward at the point just aft of the baggage door. The upper section of empennage skin was torn open at the seam in this area. The floor section remained attached. The aft end of the tail section was resting on the ground. The horizontal and vertical stabilizers remained attached, with the elevator and rudder attached at their respective hinges. Control continuity was established from the tail section to the cockpit.
Both of the floats remained attached to the aircraft. The forward, diagonal and aft struts remained intact. The entire section of the left float, in front of the forward strut, was bent upward approximately 45 degrees with rearward crushing and wrinkling to the skin at the forward strut attachment point. The nose bumper was crushed aft (see photos). The nose section of the right float, in front of the forward strut, was bent upward approximately 30 degrees with rearward crushing. Wrinkles to the top and outboard side of the float were noted in the area of the forward strut attachment. The outboard side of the right float displayed compromising gouges and scratches located just aft of the forward strut attachment. This area of the structure was crushed inward about four inches. Evidence of small rocks and sand were found imbedded and ground into and around the compromised area (see photos). Control system continuity was established from the water rudders to the cockpit. Both water rudders were retracted.
The propeller spinner and the underside of the engine cowl were crushed aft and upward. The propeller assembly remained attached at the crankshaft. Propeller blade "A" remained relatively straight except for two inches of the tip which were curled aft approximately 10 degrees. Minor nicks and scratches were noted on the blade back, along with gouges on the leading edge. Propeller blade "B" was bent aft about 20 degrees and sustained minor "S" bending deformation. The blade was missing two inches from the tip that had been torn away. Deep leading and trailing edge gouges were noted, along with chordwise striations on the blade back.
After the wreckage was recovered from the accident site, the engine was inspected. Aft and upward Impact damage was noted to the lower left side of the firewall. The engine remained attached at the engine mounts. The exhaust tubing was crushed upward, the muffler was crushed on the left side, and the carburetor heat box had separated from the carburetor. The crankshaft flange was bent. Once the propeller and starter ring were removed, the crankshaft rotated easily, with compression developed in each cylinder. Rocker arm, valve train and accessory gear continuity was established. All spark plugs displayed normal operating signatures, and both magnetos sparked in firing sequence with hand rotation. Fuel was found in the carburetor and the fuel line leading to the carburetor. The carburetor inlet screen was clear of contaminants. The throttle was found full forward. The mixture control was out about one-quarter to one-half inch. The carburetor heat control was off. Approximately 35 gallons of fuel had been drained from the fuel tanks at the time of recovery. The right wing fuel tank had been compromised and fuel had been dripping from the fuel tank until recovery personnel stopped the leak.
Inspection of the left and right front seats revealed that the left seat had separated at all four leg attach points from the seat rails and was loose to move. All four seat- leg to seat-rail fittings were slightly deformed.
The right front seat remained in place in the cockpit. The aft end of the right seat was pushed upward and forward with the rear attach fittings separated from the seat rail. The front attach points remained in position over the seat rails. The left front seat leg to seat rail fitting was badly deformed. The remaining three attach fittings were slightly deformed.
Both lap belts were found unbuckled. The buckling mechanisms operated normally and no damage was noted. The two-point shoulder harnesses for both the right and left seats remained attached to the ceiling fittings. No damage was noted to the attach fittings. The seat belt attach links for the right front seat were undamaged. One of the seat belt attach links for the left front seat was slightly deformed across its width.
The left side lower instrument panel was pushed upward and to the right. The control yoke remained in place. The right side instrument panel was not deformed. The right side control yoke shaft broke at the panel. The seaplane windshield "V" brace on the right side was slightly bent. The right side sunvisor was damaged.
The pilot reported that his injuries were broken ribs on both sides, a concussion, broken jaw and the area above the jaw, a laceration on the left side of his chin. Stitches were required on his throat, mouth and tongue. There were no injuries to his forehead or nose. The pilot stated that the area over both shoulders was sore and bruised.
The Skagit County Coroner reported that the passenger's cause of death was due to massive hemorrhage. The aorta was torn. The Coroner also reported that the passenger's head injury could have contributed to the cause of death. Lacerations on both legs were noted. There were no broken leg bones. The Coroner reported no evidence of bruising or injury to the shoulder area or midsection.
The wreckage was released to the owner's representative on September 24, 1998. At this time, the wreckage was secured in a hangar at the Skagit Regional Airport, Mount Vernon, WA.