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On June 21, 1993, time unknown, a Cessna 172F airplane, N5461R, owned and piloted by David R. Eldridge descended to ground collision on a farmstead near Miami, Missouri. The solo pilot was fatally injured, and the airplane destroyed. Visual meteorological conditions existed throughout daylight hours. The aircraft departed Liberty, Missouri about 0745 en route to Illinois where the pilot intended aerial photography. No flight plan was filed; the flight operated under 14 CFR 91.
N5461R radioed the Flight Service Station in Columbia, Missouri about 0755, reporting its position 20 miles northeast of Kansas City, headed to St. Louis, Missouri.
The pilot had been engaged in photographing land, buildings and farmsteads. The photographs would be offered for sale to landowners and occupants.
The operator of an agricultural spraying service at Carrollton, Missouri recounted a white-and-red Cessna airplane landed there the morning of June 21. An employee saw the airplane parked near the line shack, outside which is a public telephone. A man in T-shirt and blue jeans stood near the airplane for several minutes, got in and departed.
A business associate recounted receiving a message on his answering machine from the pilot on June 21 at 0845: the pilot stated there was rain in St. Louis and he was going elsewhere to photograph. The associate knew of no alternate shooting locations in Missouri; he said the crash vicinity had been worked by others and was sold out. From flights he accompanied the accident pilot on, the associate described the pilot's method was to fly 500 to 700 feet above ground, open the window of the left door and shoot with a hand-held camera.
From family members' accounts, the pilot kept a truck on a farm in the vicinity of Belleville, Illinois, south of St. Louis; he occasionally used the truck for refueling the airplane. The farm occupants had not seen the airplane recently.
Wreckage location was reported to the Saline County Sheriff department about 1800 CDT on June 22.
The pilot held a private pilot certificate for single-engine airplanes, issued April 15, 1993. A logbook opened April 12, 1993, showed about 4225 total flight hours, most in single-engine airplanes. The last flight recorded in the log was June 15. The pilot previously held a commercial pilot certificate with multi-engine airplane and instrument ratings, and an instructor pilot certificate; all certificates were revoked in 1992.
The business associate said there was no belly window or fixed camera mount for photography.
The airplane was manufactured in 1965. It had been modified with installation of a short takeoff/landing conversion kit of wingtip fairings, stall fences and gaps seals. Shoulder harnesses were not installed. Service or maintenance records were not found in the wreckage nor later obtained in the investigation. The pilot's father estimated the airplane's total time was 3000 to 3200 hours. The engine was the original installed at construction; its overhaul history is unknown. The airplane was white with red accent.
Weather data for June 21 from the nearest observation station, in Knob Noster, Missouri, are appended. The lowest cloud condition (scattered, 4000 feet above ground) remained from noon through sunset. Visibility remained 7 to 10 miles all day, with no restriction. Wind was 10 knots or less all day, with no gusts. Station radar identified a thundershower cell in the crash vicinity at 1635 CDT.
Local residents recounted there was no rain on June 21 until showers in late afternoon or early evening, then none after.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The accident site was the dome of low hilltop, occupied by a vacant farmhouse and outbuildings. East and south were open, cultivated fields; trees abutted the west and north.
All 3 wheels and the full span of the wing imprinted hard sod east of the wreckage. The wing imprint aligned 170/350 degrees. A ground scar 12 inches deep extended west from the engine impact. Both wings, tail and engine separated. The wreckage came to rest 165 feet distant, heading 265 degrees, against a shed behind the farmhouse. A fan-shaped area of grass extended west from impact and smelled of fuel.
All flight control surfaces and the airplane's extremities were accounted for at the site. There was no appearance of birdstrike or in-flight collision. Crush on the wing leading edge and forward fuselage was oriented about 45 degrees off the airplane's longitudinal axis.
The separated left wing leaned against the shed, and its flap appeared extended. The right wing lay inverted on the piled wreckage, its flap appearing retracted. The flap actuator was retracted. The wings crushed in accordion folds from the leading edge toward the rear; greater crush was apparent at the tips. The upper right wing bore the word "patrol" in 24-inch letters. Pass-throughs for flap and flight controls showed cable tearing, and separated cables showed tensile overload. Fuel tanks in the wings formed against the wing spar and split the lower wing skins.
The engine lay under the wreckage. The propeller separated about 50 feet from impact. Both blades were bent; one curled and twisted smoothly in a tight radius. The carburetor scattered in pieces. Scorched grass and wildflower blossoms like those growing onsite were trapped in crush folds of the jackets on the engine exhaust. Top spark plugs for cylinders 1 through 5 showed lead buildup.
A cabin light was found with its filament distended. The directional gyro was disassembled and showed circumferential scoring on the rotor and its cage.
The fuel selector handle and valve were found separated, both in the left tank position. The valve held traces of fuel like auto gasoline. Decals next to the intact fuel caps indicated the airplane was modified to use auto gas.
The tail separated behind the cabin and lay on the piled wreckage. The rudder was deflected left and the elevator full up; both controls moved freely and continuity existed behind the aft fuselage separation.
A wheel pant lay inverted as an upright bowl and held water.
A single camera was found, shattered with back missing: no film remained. Numerous rolls of film lay about the site. Some remained wrapped; the majority streamed off their rolls and were exposed to daylight. None appeared suitable for development.
Numerous large-scale maps with hand annotation lay about the wreckage, most for Kansas locations, some for Illinois. None was found for the accident locale.
No telephone was found in the wreckage.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The pilot obtained an FAA first class medical certificate December 14, 1992. On the application, the pilot listed his occupation as self-employed flight instructor, and declared no medication and no recent medical treatment. The FAA airman medical record contained no remarkable medical history. The report of autopsy remarked no preexisting disease. Limited specimens were obtainable for toxicological testing. The test report by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology remarked specimen putrefaction. The report listed 98 mg/dL ethanol and 7 mg/dL 1-propanol in liver tissue, and 92 mg/dL and 18 mg/dL respectively in kidney tissue. Traces amounts of acetaldehyde and acetone were found. An Institute toxicologist stated the findings likely resulted from postmortem production.
The autopsy was performed by Dr. Jay Dix, M-263 Medical Science Building, Columbia, Missouri 65203.