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Thu, May 07, 2009

Montana PC-12 Crash Investigation: Family States 'No Drugs/Alcohol' Found

Crash Got Intensive Media Attention Due To Number of People, Kids On Board

The wife of a pilot who died in a tragic accident on March 22nd, has reportedly been cleared of any influence from drugs or alcohol -- according to a report that she claims to have seen, but has yet to be released to the public. The Butte, MT, killed 14 people, while on the way to a ski vacation, in a single-engine turboprop PC-12 being flown by Ellison "Buddy" Summerfield (65).

Statements made by Janet Summerfield indicate that the report, prepared by the Butte-Silver Bow coroner, indicate the a copy of the report has been made available to her and that the results 'do not show that her husband had drugs in his system or that he suffered from a medical condition before the wreck.'

Summerfield added that her husband, "habitually piloted his aircraft with an exceptional degree of skill, competence and responsibility." The Summerfield's lawyer also claimed that the pilot did not have a heart attack and that his liver was clear of any medications.

The NTSB prelim stated that, "on March 22, 2009, at 1430 mountain daylight time, a Pilatus PC-12/45, N128CM, descended to ground impact near the approach end of runway 33 at the Bert Mooney Airport, Butte, Montana. The airplane was owned and operated by Eagle Capital Leasing, of Enterprise, Oregon, as a personal transportation flight under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The airplane was destroyed in the collision sequence and post crash fire. All 14 persons onboard the airplane were killed in the accident and there were no reported ground injuries. The flight departed Oroville, California, at 1210 Pacific daylight time on an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan and clearance destined for Gallatin Field, Bozeman, Montana. The airplane was diverting to Butte at the time of the accident. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at both the Bozeman and Butte airports."

The airplane impacted the Holy Cross cemetery west of runway 33 at Bert Mooney Airport, Butte, Montana. The wreckage was confined to the impact area and consumed by impact and fire. Portions of all major structural components were identified.

Interviews with family members indicated that seven adults and seven children were traveling to Bozeman, Montana, to meet other family members and friends for a ski vacation. The owner of the airplane drove from California with his wife and other family members. The airplane originally departed Redlands, California, flew to Nut Tree Airport, Vacaville, California, where passengers were picked up. The pilot then flew to Oroville, California, where additional passengers were picked up.

According to a preliminary briefing from the FAA regarding air traffic control, the pilot filed an instrument flight rules flight plan from Oroville, California (KOVE) to Bozeman, Montana (KBZN) with Butte, Montana (KBTM) as the alternate. The airplane departed at 1210 local. At 1359 the crew contacted the Salt Lake City Center. At 1403, the airplane was at FL 250 and the pilot requested to change his destination to Butte and gave no reason for the diversion. He was cleared at pilot's discretion to descend to 14,000 feet, and at 1405 the pilot again requested to divert to Butte. At 1427 air traffic control asked the pilot if he had the airport in sight and the pilot indicated he had one more cloud to maneuver around. At 1428 the pilot reported the airport in sight and air traffic control terminated radar service. At 1429, air traffic control called the aircraft in the blind with no response. The accident was reported to local authorities at 1433.

Initial reports from ground witnesses indicate that the airplane was flying approximately 300 feet above ground level in a north-northwesterly direction. Shortly thereafter, the airplane's nose pitched to a nose-low attitude and it impacted the ground. One witness with aviation experience reported that the airplane was west of the runway centerline and appeared too high to land on the runway. The witness then saw the airplane bank to the left and fly farther west when it rolled, pitched down, and descended out of his view. Although there is no air traffic control tower at Butte, the local fixed base operator lineman was monitoring the radio as the airplane approached the airport. He heard the pilot transmit that he would be landing on runway 33.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov

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