DEN02LA063
DEN02LA063

On June 30, 2002, at 0830 mountain daylight time, a Rich RV-4, N3344E, piloted by a commercial pilot, was destroyed when the airplane departed controlled flight and impacted trees and terrain 8 miles west-southwest of Grand Junction, Colorado. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The personal flight was being conducted under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91 without a flight plan. The pilot was fatally injured. The local flight was originating from a private airstrip at the time of the accident.

A witness on the ground reported that the airplane took off behind another airplane on runway 05 at Pinyon Airstrip. The first airplane completed a farewell pass above runway 23 and was orbiting overhead. The witness said the accident airplane did a fly-by pass on a heading of 230 degrees. The witness said, "Near the west end of the runway, a sharp pull up was observed with the right wing low. It appeared the aircraft went inverted with the left wing coming up and over. Aircraft then righted, with a direction 90 degrees to the runway, descending and disappeared into the trees off the west end of the runway."

The pilot in the first airplane said they both took off and then made a couple of passes over the airport to wave good-bye to their hosts. The lead pilot said he had finished his pass and was circling back on downwind when he saw the pilot's airplane hit the ground.

An examination of the accident site revealed the airplane had impacted several pine trees before impacting the ground. The airplane's engine was broken downward at the mounts and firewall. One propeller blade was broken aft. The propeller blades showed torsional bending and chordwise scratches. The lower cowling and forward fuselage were bent downward and broken open. The cockpit area was bent downward and broken open rearward from the firewall aft to the rear cockpit wall. The Plexiglas canopy was broken out and fragmented. Both wings showed rearward crushing along the span of the leading edges. Both wing fuel tanks were broken open. The smell of fuel was prevalent at the accident site. The main landing gear were broken aft. The aft fuselage, vertical stabilizer and rudder, left horizontal stabilizer and left elevator showed minor damage. The right horizontal stabilizer and elevator were bent upward and crushed aft. Flight control continuity was confirmed. An examination of the airplane's systems revealed no anomalies.

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