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THE NATION

Carnahan Crash Causes Detailed

June 06, 2002|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The federal investigation of the plane crash that killed Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan found that his pilot son, Randy, became disoriented and lost control of his Cessna 335, in part because the key instrument guiding him through darkness, rain and fog malfunctioned.

The National Transportation Safety Board on Wednesday issued its final word on the probable cause of the crash, saying the pilot failed to control the twin-engine aircraft because he was disoriented. The instrument failure and turbulent weather contributed to the accident, the board said.

The plane crashed on Oct. 16, 2000, into wooded hills south of St. Louis, killing the governor, his son and aide Chris Sifford.

Mel Carnahan, a Democrat, died three weeks before the election in which he sought the Senate seat held by Republican John Ashcroft, now the U.S. attorney general. Carnahan's name remained on the ballot and he beat Ashcroft. His widow, Jean, was appointed to serve the first two years of the six-year term that would have been his, and she is now campaigning for election in November to finish out the term.

Since the crash, investigators have focused on the main instrument Randy Carnahan used to navigate, the primary attitude indicator.

Also called the artificial horizon, the attitude indicator reports a plane's position in the air, telling whether a plane is banking and whether the nose is high or low.

NTSB investigators concluded that the primary attitude indicator "was not displaying properly at the time of impact."

A smaller, secondary attitude indicator was working, investigators concluded. Thus, "the loss of the primary attitude indicator alone does not explain why the pilot lost control of the airplane and crashed," the report says.

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