Saturday, May 07, 2016

Beech G35 Bonanza, N4401D: Fatal accident occurred May 07, 2016 in Surprise, Maricopa County, Arizona

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Scottsdale FSDO-07

NTSB Identification: WPR16FA102
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, May 07, 2016 in Suprise, AZ
Aircraft: BEECH G35, registration: N4401D
Injuries: 1 Fatal, 1 Serious.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On May 07, 2016, about 1655 mountain standard time, a Beechcraft G35 Bonanza airplane, N4401D, sustained substantial damage during a forced landing following a reported loss of engine power near Surprise, Arizona. The flight instructor was fatally injured and the private pilot sustained serious injuries. The flight was being operated as a maintenance check/instructional flight under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 when the accident occurred. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no Federal Aviation Administration flight plan had been filed. The flight departed Glendale Municipal Airport (GEU), Glendale, Arizona about 1630.

A witness who observed the airplane descending over a parking lot stated that the airplane appeared "low, slow, and quiet." The airplane then disappeared behind a building, and subsequently impacted a green belt in a residential area. Multiple residents close to the accident site heard the sound of impact and alerted first responders.

The flight instructor, who also held a mechanic's certificate, was asked to complete a maintenance flight after the airplane had recently been serviced. He elected to use the accident flight to provide instruction to the private pilot who requested a checkout in the airplane. 

Review of preliminary radar data indicated that the airplane made one circuit in the airport traffic pattern before departing the airport to the northeast. About 10 miles north of GEU, the airplane made a 180 degree right turn followed by a 270 degree left turn, and subsequently entered a constant descent which continued to the last radar return, located about .15 miles southeast from the accident site. 

The initial impact point (IIP) was identified by several broken tree branches on a eucalyptus tree, about 30 feet above ground level. The airplane continued intact from the IIP along a 242 degree magnetic heading for about 100 feet before impacting a large pine tree. The wings and empennage then separated from the fuselage, which came to rest inverted about 30 feet from the pine tree. All the major components of the airplane were accounted for at the accident site.

A detailed examination of the engine and airframe are pending.

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email,  and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email

Peoria resident Josh Merrill, shown in an undated photo, likely saved his passenger and dozens of people on the ground by his actions prior to the crash of his small plane in Surprise May 7. Merrill was killed in the incident.

GLENDALE, Ariz - It was his split-second decision-making that likely saved dozens of people on the ground as well as his passenger on board.

Joshua Merrill’s family spoke for the first time to ABC15 about the crash that claimed his life May 7.

"He soloed at 16 and got his private pilot's license at 17,’ said Al Merrill, Joshua’s father, also a long-time commercial pilot.

Al said flying was in the family's blood.

'I taught him, if he ever did, when he was flying, to always look for a place to land. You never know when something is going to happen,” said Merrill.

Joshua was a third-generation pilot. On May 7, the C-35 he was piloting lost power and crashed in a Surprise neighborhood.

He was killed, but his passenger, Michael Fox, survived.

While Joshua flew planes, he preferred to work on them. He was a mechanic by trade and enjoyed being hands-on.

His family said he was meticulous and detailed. That's just who he was.

“I'm going to miss being able to talk to him about literally anything,” his father said.

Merrill said investigators told him they are inspecting throttle components of the plane to try and piece together what happened prior to the crash.

The official caused is under investigation.

Josh Merrill was the pilot of the small plane that crashed in Surprise May 7, 2016.

SURPRISE, Ariz. - When a small plane went down in a Surprise neighborhood on Saturday, neighbors couldn’t believe it: The aircraft hadn’t crashed into a house, car or person.

But they didn’t know the pilot, 31-year-old Josh Merrill.

Merrill, tragically, was killed in the crash. His friend and passenger 32-year-old Michael Fox was the sole survivor.

“You have very few choices, and they have to be made right, and they have to be made immediately,” said Jim Tilmon, an aviation expert and CEO of the Tilmon Group.

We shared information given to us by Fox’s family about what happened in the flight’s final moments.

“Seconds, we're talking about that makes a considerable difference,” Tilmon told 12 News when asked about crash landings.

Family members told 12 News the plane lost all power and Merrill, an experienced pilot and airplane mechanic, had just 45 seconds to figure out where to make a crash landing with nothing but houses and busy streets below.

What Merrill did next, Tilmon says could only have been done by exceptionally skilled pilot.

Fox’ family says Merrill spotted the nearest greenbelt in a neighborhood near 14000 West Fire Mesa Trail and on the way down, flew the fuselage of the aircraft between two trees, severing the aircraft’s wings.

Pictures from the scene show the wings sliced off from the plane.

“That of course gives him the opportunity to dump the fuel with the wings,” said Tilmon,

This lessened the plane’s chances of exploding and causing more damage.

While Tilmon didn’t know Merrill personally, he believes without a doubt – his quick thinking actions saved his friend’s life and lives of countless others.

“I imagine he was not shouting at that passenger. He was simply saying, ‘Brace yourself, we're going in.' Sounds like that type of guy,” said Tilmon, “I don’t know him. He's my hero today.”

Fox remains in the hospital, but according a family member, he has been upgraded from critical to serious condition.

The FAA is investigating the cause of the crash.

Story and video:

Michael Fox was seriously injured in a small plane crash in Surprise, Arizona Saturday, May 7, 2016.

SURPRISE, AZ (KPHO/KTVK) -  A Peoria resident aboard a plane that crashed in Surprise Saturday evening has died during surgery, Surprise Police Sgt. Norm Owens said.

Joshua Merrill, of Peoria, was 31 years old.  

The other person in the plane, Michael Fox, 32, of Glendale, remains in serious condition.

He has been moved into an Intensive Care Unit, where remains under close observation, Owens said 

The single-engine 1956 Beech G35 aircraft came down around 5 p.m. Saturday in the Sun Village senior citizen community. That's just south of the intersection of Litchfield and Bell roads. 

Investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board continue to assist the Surprise Police Department in the investigation.

In a statement, Owens said:

"The men and women of the Surprise Police Department are keeping Mr. Fox, his family, and his friends, in their thoughts and prayers. Additionally, we are continuing to pray for Mr. Fox to have a full recovery from his injuries. The Surprise Police are also keeping Mr. Merrill's family and friends in our thoughts and prayers as they go through this most difficult time of mourning."  

Original article can be found here:

SURPRISE, Ariz. -  Surprise Police say that one person was killed in Saturday's plane crash while another remains in intensive care.  They have identified the two people inside the plane.

Police say 31-year-old Joshua Merrill of Peoria was killed in the crash.  They say 32-year-old Michael Fox of Glendale was seriously hurt and is in intensive care on Sunday. 

Neighbors in the Northwest Valley were in shock on Saturday after a plane crash landed in their neighborhood earlier this evening.  Fox 10’s Danielle Miller was at the scene of the crash. 

"Everyone was just in shock, ran out, setting like this in this village it's not real," said Tom Hannon, who lives in the community . 

Tom Hannon and many of his neighbors are in disbelief tonight by what's happened in their quiet community. 

Surprise police say this single-engine plane crash landed in this green belt area of the Sun Village neighborhood near Litchfield Road and Bell Road around 5:00 pm Saturday. 

The plane came in from the east. 

“It just sounded like loud gunshots, we ran out and here it was, a plane, unbelievable," said Hannon. 

Police say the pilot and only passenger were taken to the hospital, one by ambulance and one by air.

"There's not a lot of open fields, like places to I don't know, land a plane, I guess,” said Kelly Murphy-who also lives in the community. “This is one of our biggest fields I guess we have here, other than the open strip and golf course, and I guess he could have been trying to aim for that, but this is probably one of the biggest places and best places he could have landed."  

Investigators are now on scene trying to determine what caused the plane to go down.  Police also tell us the plane luckily didn't hit any homes or people in the area.

“For him to not hit anything, I mean he hit a tree, but for him to not hit anything else that's absolutely mind blowing and to have all of this open, like wow," Murphy said. 

Original article can be found here:

SURPRISE, AZ - Two people have been hospitalized after a small plane crashed in a residential area Saturday afternoon.

Surprise police said a Beech 35 Bonanza plane crashed inside Sun Village, a planned community near N. Bell and W. Litchfield roads, around 5 p.m.

Residents praised the pilot's skill to land the aircraft in an open area, avoiding homes just a few feet away.

“You never think you’re going to have a plane land in your back yard," said Jean Steinken.

Both the pilot and sole passenger were alert when first responders arrived, said Sgt. Norm Owens with the Surprise Police Department. 

“I saw him scoot out of the plane on his fanny, and the other one was laying down," Petty said. 

The pilot and a passenger were taken to the hospital for evaluation and treatment. Both suffered serious injuries, according to the Surprise Fire Department.

Neighbors rushed outside their homes when they heard the impact, just steps away from where they live.

“I said, 'My Lord, what was that? The loudest boom!” said Sue Petty. 

"A lot of our snowbirds have left for the season, so we were real lucky because this park is usually real full of people out here with their animals," said Delilah Smart.

No one on the ground was hurt and no homes were hit as the plane crashed, authorities said.

“The hand of God had to help them set that plane down because you can see it’s turned upside down and it’s broken into several pieces," Petty said. 

Looking at the wreckage, she can’t help but get emotional knowing two people were inside.

“We just hope and pray that they’re both well," Petty said.

The pilot and passenger have not been identified, and authorities have not released the tail number of the plane.

Officials from the National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration are investigating the crash.

Story and video:

SURPRISE, Ariz. - Police said a small blue and white single-engine plane crashed into a greenbelt area inside Sun Village, a gated community for adults 55 and older in Surprise. 

No homes were hit or damaged when the plane crashed around 5 p.m. on Saturday, according to officers. 

Sue Petty lives in the area and is stunned that no homes were hit.

“It’s bad, but I said it had to be the Hand of God that put that plane down where it did," Petty said, "because it could’ve took out no telling how many homes with people in it.”

Surprise police Sergeant Norman Owens said two people were inside the Beech 35 Bonanza plane when it exploded into the ground, between trees.

“We are very fortunate that it only collided into the trees, and we’re looking at the injuries only to the pilot and his copilot or the passenger,” Owens said.

The plane, coming from the east, authorities said, miraculously missed every home in its path. Homes filled with people living in the retirement community near Bell Road and Grand Avenue.

I came running out of a lady’s house and she didn’t hear it," Petty said. "But I thought, man, you ought to be deaf if you didn’t hear it."

Firefighters said two people were taken to the hospital with life-threatening injuries -- the pilot and the only passenger. One was taken by ground, the other by air.

No traffic delays are expected in the area. 

Community members said they're praying for the crash victims' recovery.

Story and video:

The pilot and sole passenger of a small plane were taken to hospitals Saturday evening after crash landing into the greenbelt of a senior community in Surprise, a police official said.

No homes were struck and no bystanders injured when the single-engine plane went down over Sun Village, an active adult community near Litchfield and Bell roads, said Sgt. Norman Owens, a Surprise Police Department spokesman.

The plane, a Beech 35 Bonanza, crashed under unknown circumstances around 4:20 p.m., according to Ian Gregor, an FAA spokesman.

Owens said the plane flew in from the east and hit the tops of some trees outside the Sun Village community before crashing in a "rather small" greenbelt next to some trees and a house. He said it was too early in the investigation to know if the pilot tried to intentionally evade structures.

The pilot and passenger were taken to area hospitals, one by ground and the other by air, Owens said. Both were listed in serious condition Saturday evening.

Trevor Williams, of Glendale, and his girlfriend were inside a nearby gift shop when they heard sirens and other commotion. They went outside to check it out and stumbled upon the crash scene.

His girlfriend, JoAnne Baum, snapped a photo of the site and posted it on twitter.

Williams said firefighters were tending to two men -- one on a stretcher and the other, who was in a neck brace and on his feet.

He said it was "amazing" that the plane crashed where it did and not into any number of nearby homes and businesses.

"I, along with my girlfriend JoAnne, we were obviously thankful," he said.

Gregor said the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board would be investigating the crash.

Original article can be found here:

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