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June 18, 2002, 10:47 AM
Antinori, 30, was killed June 4 when his single-engine Cessna nose-dived about 20 miles north of Tampa. Hours earlier, he was released from a hospital after he crashed his helicopter into a house. No one else was injured in either accident.
A Tampa police report indicated Monday that alcohol may have also been a factor in the June 3 helicopter crash. A man who pulled Antinori from the wreckage told police he smelled alcohol on the pilot’s breath.
The National Transportation and Safety Board investigator handling the crashes was not available for comment Monday. Antinori’s family have said they suspect mechanical failures were to blame and do not believe their son committed suicide. An Antinori family spokesman refused comment Monday.
A preliminary NTSB investigation released last week did not find any mechanical problems with the aircraft. Additional testing was underway. Antinori refused a blood alcohol test when he was taken to the hospital after the first crash.
To view National Transportation Safety Board Accident Report click here
NTSB Identification: MIA02FA104.
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Accident occurred Tuesday, June 04, 2002 in Lutz, FL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 12/20/2005
Aircraft: Cessna 172S, registration: N942SP
Injuries: 1 Fatal
On June 4, 2002, about 0823 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 172S, N942SP, registered to Helicopters & Airplanes, Inc., collided with trees then the ground near Lutz, Florida. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and no flight plan was filed for the 14 CFR Part 91 personal, local flight. The airplane was destroyed by impact and the private-rated pilot, the sole occupant, was fatally injured. The flight originated about 0709 from Vandenberg Airport, Tampa, Florida.
The pilot was observed taxiing the airplane to runway 36 at the Vandenberg Airport, and one witness located on the airport reported the pilot did not perform an engine run-up before takeoff but he “gunned the throttle two times and took off at 0710 am.” Another witness on the airport reported hearing the pilot run up the engine abruptly several times before observing the pilot taxi onto runway 36. An individual who was working at a fixed-base operator (FBO) at the Vandenberg airport reported that on the day of the accident sometime after 0730 hours, Tampa Approach Control contacted the FBO and asked for someone there to attempt to contact the pilot on the airport’s common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF). She reported making repeated broadcasts on the CTAF for the accident pilot, but he did not respond.
According to a chronological sequence of events prepared by the air traffic manager of the Tampa International Airport Air Traffic Control Tower, at approximately 0716, a radar target associated with the accident airplane was noted orbiting at 2,000 feet north-northeast of the Tampa International Airport (KTPA). At approximately 0718, the departure controller questioned the tower controller about the orbiting airplane; the tower controller advised he was not aware of the airplane and it must be a class B airspace violator. At approximately 0726, the pilot of Flight Express 820 which was inbound to KTPA was vectored by a controller in the area of the orbiting airplane to help identify the airplane; he provided the registration of the airplane to the controller at approximately 0730. At approximately 0734, the Flight Express 820 pilot advised the controller that he thought the airplane was based at the Vandenberg Airport. At 0738, the operations supervisor contacted the FBO at Vandenberg who provided the name of the owner of the airplane. The FBO was also asked to attempt to communicate with the pilot on the airport UNICOM frequency. At 0742, the operations supervisor advised the tower controller that a police helicopter would become airborne to track the orbiting airplane. At approximately 0753, the operations supervisor contacted the U.S. Coast Guard requesting their assistance. At approximately 0758, the operations supervisor contacted the St. Petersburg Automated Flight Service Station and requested personnel attempt to communicate with the pilot of the orbiting airplane on the appropriate PIE VORTAC frequency. At approximately 0803, a flightcrew member of a police department helicopter reported on the frequency and the flight was vectored to the area of the orbiting airplane. A flightcrew member of the police department helicopter broadcast on 121.5 for the orbiting airplane, but there was no response from the pilot. At approximately 0812, a flightcrew member of the police department helicopter advised they would return to get a Cessna which had a camera. At approximately 0821:24, the radar target was lost momentarily, a target was reacquired at 0821:35, and the radar target was finally lost at 0823:10, with the last recorded altitude of 700 feet mean sea level.
The pilot of Flight Express 820 later reported in writing to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) that while flying in close proximity to the accident airplane, he observed the pilot of the orbiting airplane sitting upright in the “left side of the aircraft.” He also reported he thought the pilot of the orbiting airplane was aware of the close proximity of both airplanes because, “…it appeared that he was maneuvering to avoid me, although I was unable to see the pilot moving at any time nor was I close enough to see any facial expressions or physical gestures of any kind.”
The pilot of the Tampa Police Department helicopter which was dispatched to the orbiting airplane reported observing the airplane from 3/4 mile away. He later reported the airplane was flying left orbits.
A witness near the accident site reported hearing the airplane flying at what she thought was a low altitude then heard the engine “revving” up followed by hearing the impact. Several other witnesses across the street from the crash site reported hearing the engine sound that was steady with no sputtering. The engine sound remained the same from the time they heard it until the impact. Another witness reported that he first observed the airplane when it was approximately 30-40 feet above the tops of trees. The airplane at that time was in a 80-degree nose low attitude on a southeast heading. He observed the airplane collide with the trees then heard the impact.
Several law enforcement aircraft and a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter were dispatched to the area of the last known position of the orbiting airplane. Additionally, a ground search for the airplane was initiated by local law enforcement personnel.
National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) review of recorded radar data for beacon code 1200 radar returns revealed a target was first observed at 0709:07, at 400 feet mean sea level (msl) just north of runway 36 at the Vandenberg Airport. The flight proceeded in a northwest then westerly direction where from approximately 0715 to 0817, the flight orbited at approximately 2,200 feet over the intersection of Ehrlich Road and Dale Mabry Highway. At approximately 0817, the flight departed from the orbiting area and proceeded in a northwesterly direction for approximately 1.6 minutes, then turned to the right completing a 180-degree turn. The airplane then proceeded in a southeasterly direction for approximately 36 seconds and at approximately 0819:55, the airplane turned to the left and proceeded in a northerly direction flying at 2,100 feet until 0820:31. The airplane then turned to the left, climbed 100 feet over the next 12 seconds, then the airplane turned to the right and performed a right descending 360-degree turn. The airplane then proceeded in a northwesterly direction where at 0822:31, the last radar return with altitude was reported. The last radar target at 0822:43, was a primary only radar return.
According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records, the pilot was issued a private pilot certificate with airplane single engine land rating on July 2, 2000. He was issued a third class medical certificate with no limitations on June 1, 2001. A review of FAA records indicated the pilot did not have any previous accident or incidents, or previous enforcement actions.
A review of the medical application for the June 2001 medical revealed he listed his total flight time as 292 hours. Further review of the application revealed the pilot checked the “yes” block in response to the question, “History of …any conviction(s) involving driving while intoxicated by, while impaired by, or while under the influence of alcohol or a drug….”
Toxicological analysis of postmortem specimens was performed by the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner Department (Hillsborough Medical Examiner), and the FAA Toxicology and Accident Research Laboratory (CAMI), located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The result of an initial analysis by the Hillsborough Medical Examiner of postmortem specimens was positive for ethanol in the cavity blood (0.14 g/dl), and in pelvic muscle (0.12 g/100g). Carbon Monoxide (5 percent saturation) was also detected in cavity blood. The analysis was negative for all listed drugs classes. An addendum toxicology report by the Hillsborough Medical Examiner dated July 23, 2002, was positive for zolpidem in cavity blood (1.10 mg/l), liver (2.10 mg/kg), bile (2.10 mg/l), and in stomach content (39 mg/l). The results of analysis by CAMI of the postmortem specimens was positive in blood for ethanol (69 mg/dL), acetaldehyde (82 mg/dL), citalopram (0.205 ug/ml, and zolpidem (1.54 ug/ml). The kidney tested positive for ethanol (84 mg/dL), citalopram, di-n-desmethylcitalopram, n-desmethylcitalopram, and zolpidem. The muscle tested positive for ethanol (105 mg/dL). The liver tested positive for citalopram, di-n-desmethylcitalopram, n-desmethylcitalopram, and zolpidem. The gastric contents tested positive for citalopram, di-n-desmethylcitalopram, n-desmethylcitalopram, and zolpidem. Carbon monoxide and cyanide testing was not performed. A note on the CAMI toxicology report indicates, “The ethanol found in this case may potentially be from postmortem ethanol formation and not from the ingestion of ethanol.”
The levels of citalopram and zolpidem detected in the postmortem blood specimen are more than 12 times and more than 3 times, respectively, greater than the levels of each detected in a hospital blood specimen taken 1 hour 40 minutes following the first accident. Additionally, the CAMI toxicology report indicates citalopram and zolpidem were detected in the submitted postmortem gastric specimen.