Witnesses reported observing the RV-6 traveling very low and fast over terrain near Williams, Calif. They then saw the airplane disappear behind a hill, followed by rising black smoke.
During the post-accident on-site examination, the lowest wire of a high-tension power line that crossed over a shallow valley was found broken, and a fragment of the airplane’s wing was found hanging from the next higher power line. The main wreckage was located 300 yards north of the power lines, and a post-crash fire had ensued. The pilot was killed in the crash.
Toxicological testing detected ethanol in the pilot’s tissues, however the ethanol distribution was not consistent with ingestion and likely resulted from postmortem sources.
The testing also detected the opioid medications tramadol and hydrocodone in the pilot’s urine, indicating that he had used the medications at some time before the accident. The low level of tramadol in the blood indicates that the pilot was unlikely impaired by it at the time of the accident, however there was insufficient evidence to determine if he was impaired by the hydrocodone at the time of the accident.
The NTSB determined the probable cause as the pilot’s improper decision to fly at a low altitude, which resulted in his failure to maintain clearance from power lines.
NTSB Identification: WPR13LA420
This August 2013 accident report is provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it is intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.