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Aviation Accident

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NTSB Identification: CEN14FA084
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, December 12, 2013 in Collbran, CO
Probable Cause Approval Date: 09/08/2014
Aircraft: PIPER PA 24-250, registration: N8037P
Injuries: 3 Fatal.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The pilot was flying the airplane with two passengers on board to search for lost cattle in mountainous terrain. Witnesses observed the airplane maneuvering at a low altitude. The airplane was reported overdue, and the wreckage was subsequently located in a sparsely wooded area. An onboard GPS unit recorded the accident flight and depicted the airplane flying several north and south legs at altitudes ranging between 300 and 500 feet above ground level before the recording ended. The airplane impacted terrain in an extreme nose-low attitude with lateral distortion of the empennage. A postaccident examination of the airframe and engine did not reveal any anomalies that would have precluded normal operation. The wreckage evidence indicated that the pilot likely failed to maintain adequate airspeed while maneuvering at a low altitude, which resulted in an inadvertent aerodynamic stall/spin and subsequent impact with terrain.
Toxicology testing revealed the presence of tetrahydrocannabinol in the lung and tetrahydrocannabinol carboxylic acid in the liver and lung, which suggested the recent use of marijuana; however, insufficient evidence existed to determine whether the pilot was impaired by its use at the time of the accident.


The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
  • The pilot’s failure to maintain adequate airspeed while maneuvering at a low altitude, which resulted in an aerodynamic stall/spin and subsequent impact with terrain.