On November 6, 2007, at 0855 Pacific standard time, a Cessna 340, N5049Q, impacted trees while in a climb about one-quarter mile southwest of Garberville Airport, Garberville, California. The airline transport pilot and his two passengers were killed in the accident, and the airplane, which was owned by Roy E. Ladd, Inc., of Redding, California, was destroyed by the impact and the post-crash fire. The 14 CFR Part 91 business flight, which departed Redding, California, about 55 minutes prior to the accident, was operating in an area of dense fog and a low ceiling. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
According to witnesses and aviation surface weather observations (METAR's), on the morning of the accident, the weather around the northern part of California, including the coast, was clear with almost unlimited visibility. The weather conditions around Garberville were the same, except in an area directly over and immediately adjacent to the South Fork of the Eel River. Along the river, and specifically in the area where it flows along the east side and then to the south of the Garberville Airport, there was a band of dense low-level fog. According to a witness, the fog extended about one-quarter to one-half mile from each side of the river, and in most places from the surface to about 200 to 250 feet above ground level (AGL). Although the fog was somewhat patchy in some areas northeast of the airport, along the steeper terrain south of the airport it was "very dense" and "extremely heavy."
According to a witness, when the airplane first arrived in the area of the non-controlled airport, it could be heard maneuvering overhead, but could not be seen because of the dense fog. There are no published instrument approaches into the Garberville Airport, and after the airplane had maneuvered around the area for about five minutes, witnesses heard the airplane south of the airport proceeding to the north. Soon thereafter, two witnesses saw the aircraft flying to the north within the band of dense fog. According to the witnesses, the aircraft was about as high above the ground as a standard telephone/power pole, and both the pilot and one of the passengers could clearly be seen inside. At that time, the airplane was located about one and one-quarter mile southwest of the airport, and according to the witnesses, everything about the airplane looked and sounded normal. Soon after passing their location, there was a significant increase in the airplane's engine power, and according to the witnesses, it seemed to them that the airplane was starting to climb. One of the two of these two witnesses said that to him it sounded as if the airplane may have made a slight turn after it began to climb. Although the airplane soon went out of sight, both of these witnesses heard the sound of the impact.
Another individual, who was located about one-quarter mile north of the two aforementioned witnesses, saw the airplane in a climb at what he estimated to be 200 feet above the river. Although everything sounded normal about the airplane, about five seconds after it passed his location this witness could hear the airplane colliding with trees, and ultimately impacting the terrain. All of the witnesses stated that the engines ran strong and smooth until the final impact. One witness said that it sounded like one engine may have been at a higher power setting than the other.
The on-site investigation determined that the airplane initially collided with a number of trees on steeply up-sloping terrain. The initial impact point was about 500 feet short of where the airplane came to rest. Along this track several airplane parts were scattered, including one aileron, a main landing gear strut and wheel, antennas, an engine cowling, and a number of sections of the airplane's skin.
The airplane came to rest in densely forested terrain. The wreckage site was about 800 feet mean sea level (msl). A post-crash fire consumed about sixty percent of the airplane's structure.
On December 19, 2007, both engines underwent further inspection and partial teardowns. All accessories that had not been thermally destroyed were removed and partially disassembled for inspection. Continuity from the crankshaft propeller flange to the accessory gears and valve train was established for both engines. One cylinder was removed from each engine in order too gain visual access to the interior of the crankcase. The inspection of both engines did not reveal any malfunctions or anomalies that would have prevented normal operation and the production of full rated horsepower.
A detailed analysis of the airframe structure and flight control continuity was not possible due to the extent of the damage sustained during multiple collisions with the trees and the thermal destruction of the post-crash fire.
A toxicology examination performed by the Federal Aviation Administration's Forensic Toxicology Research Team on specimens taken from the pilot were negative for ethanol in the muscle and liver. The examination was negative for all drugs except Ibuprofen in the liver and heart. The standard tests for carbon monoxide and cyanide could not be performed.
An autopsy performed by the Humboldt County Coroner's office determined that the cause of death was blunt force trauma due to an aircraft accident.