Suicide by airplane — (Charles O’Rourke)

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by Charles O’Rourke

July 21, 2003

Jackson, Minnesota – Douglas Lee Scholl, a 45-year-old private pilot with a history of depression, attempted suicide with sleeping pills on July 18, 2003, and was admitted to a regional medical center. After cooperating with the treatment, he was released on July 20, and returned home. He left the house early in the morning on the 21st, went to Jackson Municipal Airport, and crashed his Piper Cherokee (N33774), which he co-owned with three other individuals, into the ground near the airport. Witnesses reported the plane flying normally and then all of the sudden turning “to the left and straight down to the ground.” Despite having psychiatric hospitalizations beginning in 1991 and being on Prozac since 1993, he reported on his various FAA medical certificate applications that he was not taking any medications and had never had any type of mental disorder.

 

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NTSB Identification: CHI03FA219.
The docket is stored in the Docket Management System (DMS). Please contact Records Management Division
Accident occurred Monday, July 21, 2003 in Jackson, MN
Probable Cause Approval Date: 07/29/2004
Aircraft: Piper PA-28-235, registration: N33774
Injuries: 1 Fatal

A Forensic Toxicology Fatal Accident Report was prepared by the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI), Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

The toxicology results for the pilot were:

* 23 (mg/dL, mg/hg) Ethanol detected in Brain
* 14 (mg/dL, mg/hg) Ethanol detected in Muscle
* 10 (mg/dL, mg/hg) Isopropanol detected in Brain
* 1 (mg/dL, mg/hg) 2-Butanol detected in Brain

The CAMI report indicates that putrefaction had occurred.   The toxicology report also detected traces of the following drugs in the kidney and/or liver of the pilot:

* Diphenhydramine
* Citalopram
* N-Desmethylcitalopram
* DI-N-Desmethylcitalopram
* Flouxetine
* Norfluoxetine

With the exception of diphenhydramine, all of the substances would be expected from the pilot’s recent documented use of the antidepressants. Diphenhydramine (commonly known as Benadryl) can have measurable effects on performance of complex cognitive and motor tasks.