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On September 11, 2004 at 0528 eastern daylight time a Piper PA-23-250, N962AB, registered to and operated by Vector Disease Control Inc., and flown by the commercial pilot collided with a 520-foot television tower in Lake Wales, Florida. The aerial application flight was operated under the Provisions of Title 14, CFR Part 137, and visual flight rules. Night visual meteorological condition prevailed and no flight plan was filed. The pilot and pilot rated passenger received fatal injuries and the airplane sustained substantial damage. The flight originated from Lake Wales Municipal Airport in Lake Wales, Florida, September 11, 2004, at 0415.
According to the operator, the airplane was Mosquito Control Spraying under contract with the state of Florida. Witnesses in the area stated that they heard the airplane and could see its marker lights. One witness stated that at 0500 she went outside her home because it was hot and the power was out. She could hear the generator for the tower, but there were no obstruction lights illuminated. She heard the airplane's engines running and saw the airplane hit the tower and falling quickly. She stated the airplane sounded like a helicopter and after striking the tower the engine noise quite. She knew the airplane went into the orange groves and called for assistance. Another witness stated that he saw the airplane headed north then saw a ball of smoke and knew it hit the tower. He stated that he could only see the lights on the airplane but not the tower. He further stated that the airplane was low and the sound of the airplane stopped as soon as it hit the tower. The Polk County Sheriff's Department, confirmed that there was an automobile accident at about 0330 and that the accident had knocked out power in the area surrounding and including the television tower.
A review of information on file with the Federal Aviation Administration Airman's Certification Division, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, revealed the pilot was issued a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single engine land, airplane multiengine land and instrument airplane. A review of records on file with the FAA Aero Medical Records revealed the pilot held a second class medical certificate issued on January 27, 2004, with a restriction that he must wear corrective lenses. The pilot reported on his application for the medical certificate that he had accumulated 15,500 total flight hours.
A review of maintenance records revealed that the annual inspection was completed on June 1, 2004, at a tachometer time of 7,115.0 hours. At the time of the accident the airplane had operated 134 hours since the Annual Inspection.
The nearest weather reporting facility at the time of the accident was Orlando, Florida. The 0553 surface weather observation was: sky clear, visibility 10 statute miles, temperature 77-degrees Fahrenheit, dew point temperature 77-degrees Fahrenheit, wind 050-degrees at five knots, and altimeter 30.10. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. According to the Saint Petersburg, Florida Automated Flight Service Station, the pilot did not contact them for a weather briefing prior to the accident flight. According to records provided by Comcast Cable Television, a Notice to Airman (NOTAM) was issued by Comcast on August 13, 2004, with an extended date to November 23, 2004, stating that the power and lights had failed on the Tower in Lake Wales, Florida. According to Comcast the NOTAM was issued covering the above time span due to potential Hurricane activity in the local area. Additionally, Comcast provided documentation from Tower Sentry Inc., a company contracted by Comcast to provide continuous monitoring of the tower lights. The documentation indicated that on September 11, 2004 at 0336 the tower lights were off. The time reflected by the tower monitoring company coincided with the time of an automobile accident reported by the Polk County Sheriff's Department which caused a power failure in the local area.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
Examination of the wreckage site found that the airplane had collided with the tower about 20-feet below the top and the airplane's debris was found scattered at the base of the television tower in a westerly direction. The left wing was found separated from the airframe five feet outboard of the wing root. Multiple sections of the left wing and fuel tanks were scattered in the general area of the tower. The tower light was located just south at the bottom of the tower. The main wreckage was located about a quarter mile due north of the tower. The airplane collided with the ground in nose down attitude and torque to the east. The cockpit and fuselage came to rest on its left side. The right wing remained intact but crumpled. The vertical and horizontal stabilizers came to rest directly behind the cockpit in an east-west direction. The left engine was located about 200 yards to the left of the main wreckage. The right engine remained attached to the right wing.
Visual examination of the tower light bulb element found it broken.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The District Ten Medical Examiner for the State of Florida, conducted a postmortem examination of the pilot on September 12, 2004. The reported cause of death was "blunt force trauma." The Forensic Toxicology Research Section, Federal Aviation Administration, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma performed postmortem toxicology of specimens from the pilot. Carbon Monoxide and Cyanide tests were not performed. No ethanol was detected in the liver or muscle. Verapamil, Metoprolol, Ephedrin and Pseudoephedrin was detected in the liver and the Kidney. The pilot did report on his last application for a second class medical certificate the he was using 100 mg Toporol daily and 12.5 mg Microzide daily.