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On March 16, 1993, about 2340 hours Pacific standard time, a Piper PA 34 200, N55334, collided with the Pacific Ocean while in an undetermined phase of operation, about 1 mile offshore from Carpenteria, California. The airplane is presumed to have been destroyed. The remains of one passenger were recovered on March 17, 1993. The pilot and the remaining four passengers are presumed to have received fatal injuries. The airplane was rented as a personal flight from Skys the Limit of Van Nuys, California. The flight originated in Van Nuys at about 2307 hours and was presumed to have been destined for Santa Barbara, California. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a flight plan was not filed.
Transcripts of taped conversations between the pilot and a position specialist employed by the FAA Hawthorne, California, Flight Service Station (FSS), were obtained from the FAA. According to those transcripts, the pilot called Hawthorne FSS at 2137 hours and requested weather information for a flight from Van Nuys, California, to Long Beach, California, with an alternate of Santa Barbara. During that conversation, the pilot said he would be "departing in the next twenty minutes." The FSS position specialist briefed the pilot and later reported in his (the position specialist) statement that no adverse conditions were forecast for the area.
Recorded radar data based on what is thought to be the accident airplane's transponder readout was obtained from the FAA Burbank, California TRACON, FAA Los Angeles, California Air Traffic Control Center, and the U. S. Navy Air Traffic Control Facility located at Point Mugu, California.
According to radar data provided by the Burbank TRACON, the pilot and his passengers departed the Van Nuys airport about 2307 hours. At the time of departure, the Van Nuys Air Traffic Control Tower was closed and no one was located who witnessed the airplane's departure.
Radar Data from Burbank TRACON showed the first radar return thought to be from the accident aircraft. That return, recorded at 2308 hours, showed the airplane flying south of Van Nuys airport by about one mile and at an altitude of 900 feet mean sea level. The returns indicated the airplane was in a climb and was flying in a southerly direction. About four miles south, the returns indicated the airplane turned toward the northwest and was continuing a climb.
Radar returns from Burbank TRACON and the Point Mugu Radar Facility indicated the airplane continued a climb to about 4,500 feet and continued in a westerly direction. Radar data provided from Burbank TRACON indicated the airplane began a descent from 4,500 feet at about 2320 hours. The last recorded radar return from the Burbank TRACON, recorded at 2323:12 hours, showed the airplane had descended to 3,700 feet mean sea level. A computation based on the radar returns from the Burbank TRACON, 2321:21 to 2323:12, indicated the airplane was descending at a rate of about 324 feet per minute.
The last radar position with a mode C altitude readout recorded by the U. S. Navy radar at Point Mugu was about 2327 hours. The altitude shown at that point was 3,500 feet mean sea level. The radar data from Point Mugu indicated the airplane started a descent about 2319 hours. The last recorded radar contact from Point Mugu was at 2334:38 hours. The 2334:38 radar plot showed the airplane as being about four nautical miles west of DEANO intersection. Debris from the airplane was located the morning of March 17, 1993, about one and a half nautical miles northwest of Point Mugu Radar Facility's last recorded radar plot.
Recorded radar data from Los Angeles Center indicated that facility tracked a mode C transponder readout from an airplane unit until 2339:33 hours. The last recorded radar plot for that airplane was recorded at 2339:33 hours and was located about 16 nautical miles northwest of the debris which was located the morning of March 17, 1993.
An analysis of the radar data provided from the Point Mugu Radar Facility and the Burbank TRACON was conducted. Radar tracks, times of the radar plots, direction, and altitude were generally consistent.
About 0620 hours, crewmen on a boat which was transporting personnel from oil platforms located on the Pacific Ocean to Carpenteria discovered debris and one body floating in the ocean about one mile offshore from Carpenteria. Crewmembers from this boat retrieved a portion of the airplane's cabin. This portion was later identified as being the top section of the cabin. The portion is about ten feet long and about four feet wide. The boat crewmembers notified the U. S. Coast Guard and a Coast Guard boat was dispatched to the scene.
The personnel aboard the Cost Guard vessel located and retrieved the body, two wallets, miscellaneous papers, airplane seats, a jacket and a camera bag.
The body was identified by the Santa Barbara County Coroner as being one of the passengers aboard the accident airplane.
A search was conducted by the Santa Barbara County authorities and contract personnel until March 30, 1993. The remaining bodies and the remaining airplane wreckage was not located.
The passenger's body and the airplane debris was found at coordinates 34 degrees, 21 minutes and 48 seconds north latitude and 119 degrees, 31 minutes and 48 seconds west longitude.
The pilot's logbook and FAA records were obtained and examined after the accident. According to those documents, the pilot obtained his commercial multi engine and instrument ratings on August 21, 1992. According to the pilot's logbook, he had a total of 782 hours flight time as of March 16, 1993. The logbook also showed a total of 70 flight hours in multi engine airplanes as of March 16, 1993.
The airplane's logbooks were obtained for the NTSB, after the accident, by the FAA Van Nuys Flight Standards District Office (FSDO). The logbooks were examined by FAA airworthiness personnel from the FSDO. A written report of their examination was not provided. An airworthiness safety inspector verbally reported that he thought some/a signature (s) were forged. Without the knowledge or consent of the NTSB, that airworthiness inspector turned the original logbooks over to FAA Western Pacific Security Division for further investigation. Copies of the logbook entries were provided to the NTSB by FAA Western Pacific Security Division. Copies of the logbooks were incomplete. The airplane was manufactured in 1973. Copies of the airplane logbook provided to the NTSB started on August 12, 1990. A memorandum discussing the handling of the logbooks is attached to this report as Item 4.
Copies of logbook entries provided by FAA Western Pacific Security Division were examined by the NTSB. According to the logbook entries, the last 100 hour inspection on the airplane was performed on February 24, 1993. At the time of that inspection, the airframe had accumulated a total of 2,903.3 hours. According to the copies of the logbook, a 100 hour inspection was also conducted on December 12, 1992. The person signing off that inspection reported that all applicable airworthiness directives had been complied with.
A copy of the airplane's historical documents was obtained from the FAA Aircraft Registration Branch, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. According to those records, the airplane had two modifications reported to the FAA. The first modification was the installation of a transponder encoder which was completed on September 9, 1987. The second modification was the installation of a direction gyro which was completed on November 11, 1987.
A copy of the airplane's original delivery documents was obtained from Piper Aircraft. According to those documents, the airplane was equipped with an Altimatic III B 1 autopilot when it was sold to its original owner in 1973.
The nearest weather observation facility is located at Santa Barbara Airport. A weather observation was taken at 0000 hours (midnight), March 16, 1993. In part, that observation reported: "15,000 feet above ground level overcast; 15 miles visibility, and; wind from 030 degrees at 5 miles per hour.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION:
The exact site of the accident and wreckage was not found. A portion of the cabin top, measuring about ten feet by four feet with the pilot and co-pilot's shoulder harnesses, was recovered. The co-pilot's shoulder harness was torn. A portion of the left side of the fuselage measuring about six feet by about three feet was recovered. Five of the airplane's six seats were recovered. Four of the seats were identified as one of the cockpit seats. It could not be determined if the cockpit seat was the pilot or co-pilot seat. The left cabin entry door and the left main landing gear were also recovered.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION:
An autopsy was performed on the remains of the recovered passenger by Dr. R. M. Failing, M.D., Pathologist, for the Santa Barbara County Coroner's Office, on March 18, 1993. The cause of death listed on the autopsy report was "Impact Trauma."
A toxicological examination was conducted by the Coroner's office. Negative results were reported for all screened drugs and alcohol.
The aircraft wreckage was released to Mr. Darrell Lee, representing the owner, on September 8, 1993.