Plane in deadly crash near Moab took off too heavy, report says

Investigators examine the charred remains of a twin-engine plane after it crashed soon after takeoff from Moab, Utah, on Aug. 22, 2008, killing all 10 people on board. The aircraft was 342 pounds over its maximum takeoff limit, but federal investigators say they don’t know how great a role that played in the crash.

A plane that crashed near Moab, Utah, two years ago, killing 10 people, was more than 300 pounds over its takeoff weight limit, according to a National Transportation Safety Board report.

The twin-engine Beechcraft King Air A100 went down minutes after taking off from Canyonlands Field airport en route to Cedar City on Aug. 22, 2008, killing the pilot and nine employees of a dermatology clinic.

The report, released last week, estimated the weight of the plane at 10,842 pounds, based on estimates on the amount of fuel on board, the weight of the passengers and the weight of the medical supplies they were carrying with them.

Investigators concluded the maximum takeoff weight limit for the plane was 10,500 pounds. The report suggests they arrived at that weight based on information in the plane’s operating manual, the meteorological conditions at the time of the accident and pressure altitude.

NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway said Tuesday the fact the plane was 342 pounds over the maximum takeoff weight was a factor in the accident, but that investigators have yet to determine how much of a role it played.

The NTSB report indicates toxicology tests found ephedrine, pseudoephedrine and naproxen in pilot David White’s system. Ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are decongestants.  Naproxen is an anti-inflammatory drug.

White’s wife told investigators he occasionally used a pseudoephedrine for allergies, but she was unaware of any other use of medications, according to the report.

Holloway said investigators don’t know whether the medications found in White’s system contributed to the crash. Several people who were at the airport the day of the accident told investigators White was in a good mood and didn’t show any signs of having any physical ailments, according to the report.

Holloway said the NTSB hopes to release information on the cause of the crash “soon.”

The plane was manufactured in 1975 and owned by Leavitt Group Wings LLC, which leased the plane to Southwest Skin and Cancer under a time-share agreement. Leavitt hired White in 2005, and he had accumulated more than 1,800 hours of flight time, according to the NTSB report.


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