The pilot was flying the Piper PA24-250 with two passengers on board to search for lost cattle in mountainous terrain near Collbran, Colo. Witnesses observed the airplane maneuvering at a low altitude. It was reported overdue, and the wreckage was subsequently located in a sparsely wooded area. All three on board died in the crash.
An onboard GPS unit 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 plane hit terrain in an extreme nose-low attitude with lateral distortion of the empennage.
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 NTSB determined the probable cause as 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.
NTSB Identification: CEN14FA084
This December 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.