Retired Mechanic Crashes Plane, Suicide Suspected — (Aviation Safety Network)

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Aviation Safety Network

ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 45745

Date: 16-SEP-2001James Kenneth Waddill, a 64-year-old retired diesel engine mechanic, crashed his Cessna 172L (N4312Q) into the garage of a residence in Tucson, destroying the garage and airplane in a post-impact fire. At the time, VFR flights were forbidden in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Tucson air traffic controllers detected the plane on radar, tried unsuccessfully to make radio contact, and an Air National Guard helicopter was scrambled to check on the plane. Waddill’s wife claimed that she and her husband didn’t watch much television and weren’t aware of the flight restrictions. She also said that the airplane had not been flown in five years, and that Waddill had never flown it. During the crash investigation, it was revealed that the pilot was having some personal problems and had threatened suicide in the past. The Pima County Sheriff’s department couldn’t conclude, however, that Waddill intended suicide, and listed the cause of death as accidental.

Time: 0745
Type: Silhouette image of generic C172 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Cessna 172L
Owner/operator: James K. Waddill
Registration: N4312Q
C/n / msn: 17260212
Fatalities: Fatalities: 1 / Occupants: 1
Other fatalities: 0
Airplane damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location: Tucson, AZ – United States of America
Phase: Unknown
Nature: Private
Departure airport: Tucson, AZ (40E)
Destination airport: UNKNOWN
Narrative:
The airplane entered a dive and impacted a residence during what witnesses reported was a controlled descent. A post crash fire consumed the airplane. The airplane departed a private airpark during a time following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when VFR general aviation flights were prohibited. The airplane was observed entering a nosedive until it disappeared behind a tree line. The local authorities were told the pilot was having problems with his personal life. The pilot’s wife told the local authorities that the pilot had never flown the accident airplane before, and that the airplane hadn’t been flown for 5 years. Toxicological tests of samples from the pilot tested positive for prescription antidepressant medications. While the sheriff’s department found evidence that the pilot had threatened suicide in the past, neither they nor the medical examiner found evidence to support a suicide by the pilot, and ruled the death as accidental. CAUSE: the pilot’s controlled descent into a residence for undetermined reasons.