Plane crash blamed on error, drug — (The Billings Gazette)

To view original article click here

The Billings Gazette

Associated Press

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Flying too low and use of an over-the-counter drug were cited as causes in the death of a pilot who crashed his homemade plane last year in Laramie.

Jon Silvius, 55, died when his lightweight craft went down in Optimist Park on Jan. 6, 2003. The Laramie man was a public affairs officer for the U.S. Forest Service and an experienced pilot.

According to the final report issued recently by the National Transportation Safety Board, the plane was observed flying very low and very slow.

“Several witnesses in the park reported that the pilot waved at them and was smiling,” the report said. “One witness said the aircraft’s wings rocked several times, its nose pointed at the ground, it rotated to the right, and it crashed.”

The plane went down between a playground sandbox and walking path.

No pre-impact engine or frame anomalies were found that might have affected the airplane’s performance, the NTSB said.

Tests on the pilot’s blood performed at two different locations indicated two substantially different levels of ethanol, the intoxicating agent in alcohol.

An autopsy was conducted three days after the accident. Investigators said it was not possible to determine conclusively whether the presence of ethanol was from ingestion or the post-mortem procedure.

A half-full bottle of alcohol was found in the pilot’s vehicle, the NTSB noted. Toxicology results also revealed high levels of Benadryl, an over-the-counter antihistamine with sedative effects. The pilot also had been prescribed a low dose of Effexor, a prescription antidepressant medication, but it was not found in his system.

Copyright © 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.