On May 23, 2002, at 1835 eastern daylight time, a Mooney M20J, N4560H, registered to Emarc Incorporated and operated by a commercial pilot, collided with power lines during a forced landing following a loss of engine power in Charleston, South Carolina. The personal flight was operated under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91 and visual flight rules. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed. The airplane sustained substantial damage, and the commercial pilot and his pilot rated passenger received minor injuries. The flight originated from Greenville, North Carolina, on May 23, 2002, at 1330.

According to the pilot, while climbing through 3300 feet mean sea level en route to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, the engine oil pressure gauge suddenly dropped to "zero." Engine sounds, cylinder head temperature, and fuel pressure gauges indicated normal. The pilot stated he began a check of all fuel and engine related systems and controls, then the engine began vibrating and lost power. The pilot immediately made an emergency distress call to Charleston Approach Control and turned the airplane toward Charleston Airport, Charleston, South Carolina. Upon completing the turn, and with the airport directly ahead and in sight about 17 miles away, the engine stopped completely. The pilot notified the approach controller that a complete engine failure had occurred, and that a highway landing was intended. About 200 feet above the ground, the pilot extended the landing gear and, at a point near the intended landing point, the airplane struck a power line, then collided with the ground inverted.

Examination of the airplane revealed damage to the vertical stabilizer, empennage, and engine. The underside of the fuselage and empennage was found heavily coated with and streaming engine oil.

The engine was examined on July 10, 2002. Exterior examination found a hole in the crankcase below the number 1 cylinder with the connecting rod exposed. A hole was also found in the top left crankcase forward of the number 2 cylinder and the camshaft was exposed. A bulging protrusion was found on the crankcase aft of the number 3 cylinder. Metal chips were found in the oil. Small particles of ferrous material were found in the oil filter element, and large particles of ferrous material were found in the sump area. The propeller governor was properly secured and the correct line nuts and fittings were noted. The control arm was broken from the unit, and the governor drive shaft was intact and would rotate by hand. Fuel was found in the fuel pump. Pumping action was noted when the pump was hand actuated.

Accessories on the rear case were checked for security and were tight on their respective mount pads. The accessory case was removed, revealing large size slivers of bearing material. The oil pump was found intact, with only immeasurable residual oil remaining within the engine. The rod bolts and nuts could not be matched up, as some pieces were missing. The number 1 connecting rod was found detached, and the rod cap and bolts were not located. The number 2 and 3 connecting rods exhibited heat discoloration and lack of lubrication. Bearing material was extruded, the connection rods were separated, and both were found in multiple pieces. The number 4 connecting rod remained attached, and the bearing showed early signs of heat discoloration and lack of lubrication. The connecting rod separations exhibited overload signatures, and there were no signs of fatigue.

Maintenance records indicate an annual inspection was completed on December 14, 2001, at an engine time of 595 hours since major overhaul. At the time of the accident, the engine had accumulated 70 hours since the annual inspection. Textron Lycoming Service Instruction No. 1009AQ states the recommended time between overhaul periods for the engine is 2000 hours. Maintenance records indicate the engine received a propeller strike inspection on February 8, 2000, and the engine was disassembled, repaired, and reassembled. The engine time for the propeller strike repairs was not recorded in the maintenance log.

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