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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 39640
Last updated: 30 December 2019
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Type:Silhouette image of generic P32R model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Piper PA-32R-301T
Owner/operator:Flight Trails
Registration: N4575L
C/n / msn: 32R-8029034
Fatalities:Fatalities: 4 / Occupants: 4
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Tucson, AZ -   United States of America
Phase: En route
Departure airport:Carlsbad, CA (CRQ)
Destination airport:Houston, TX
Investigating agency: NTSB
From the NTSB Final Report:
The accident aircraft failed to arrive as expected and an alert notice was issued. Despite an extensive search along the route of flight, the aircraft remained missing for 13 years.

In 1997, two hikers discovered the wreckage of the accident aircraft at the 7,500 ft level of the Rincon Mountains east of Tucson. With the wreckage, human remains, decomposed cash, and a melted firearm were discovered.

The weather around the time of the accident was clear, however it was dark, with no illumination from the moon. The area of the accident site also lacked ground illumination.

Probable Cause:
"Controlled flight into terrain that resulted from the pilot's failure to ensure a safe VFR altitude. The dark night, which restricted the pilot's view of terrain, was a factor in this accident."

Further Information From Local News Sources:
A resident of the area south of the accident site noted that under certain lighting conditions the sun would glint off of an unknown object in the Rincon Mountains. After several years of observing the shining object on the mountain, the resident obtained a high-power telescope. When he trained the telescope on the area where he had seen the object, he saw the tail fin of a small aircraft.

The resident, along with a companion, hiked up to the 7,500 ft level of Rincon Peak where they located the wreckage of the aircraft. The wreckage was severely sun faded, and had scrub oak growing up though it from its 13 years on the mountainside. The hikers discovered a black leather satchel containing tens of thousands of dollars in decomposed, moldy cash; they also found skeletal remains and a partially melted firearm. The hikers descended the mountain, bringing the cash with them as proof of their findings.

The Pima County Sheriff's Department was notified and opened an investigation into the aircraft's discovery and the suspicious circumstances that surrounded it. Previous, unverified statements from anonymous law enforcement personnel indicated that the three passengers were known cocaine dealers, and that the purpose of the flight was to eventually travel to Orlando, Florida with the $1.5 million USD aboard in order to make a drug purchase. The Sheriff's Department investigation could not confirm nor deny these statements. It was noted that the pilot, a resident of California, likely did not know of the possible illegal intent or the sum of money aboard during the flight.


Revision history:

24-Oct-2008 10:30 ASN archive Added
21-Dec-2016 19:23 ASN Update Bot Updated [Time, Damage, Category, Investigating agency]
02-Mar-2017 21:20 PiperOnslaught Updated [Source, Narrative]

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