Sunday, May 14, 2017

Loss of Engine Power (Total): Unregistered Hy-Tek Hurricane; fatal accident occurred May 04, 2017 in Redcrest, Humboldt County, California

The National Transportation Safety Board did not travel to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entity:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Oakland, California

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Redcrest, CA
Accident Number: WPR17LA126
Date & Time: 05/04/2017, 0945 PDT
Registration: UNREG
Aircraft: Hy-Tek Hurricane
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Loss of engine power (total)
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal

On May 4, 2017, about 0945 Pacific daylight time, an unregistered experimental amateur-built Hy-Tek Hurricane airplane collided with terrain during the final approach to landing on a riverbed near Redcrest, California. The noncertificated pilot received fatal injuries, and the airplane was substantially damaged. The airplane was owned by the pilot. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and no flight plan had been filed for the local flight, which departed about 0925 from a sandbar on the river, which was near the pilot's home in Redcrest.

The pilot's father reported that, about 20 minutes after the flight departed, he heard the airplane returning to the area and noted that the engine was sputtering. He reported that the engine quit shortly thereafter and that the airplane subsequently nosed down into the ground along the shoreline of the Eel River.

Personnel from the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office, Eureka, California, responded to the accident site about 1130. A deputy officer reported that the airplane wreckage had been brought to the shoreline of the Eel River by unknown subjects before he arrived on scene and that the pilot's body was not located within the wreckage.

On May 14, 2017, after an extensive search by the sheriff's office and volunteers, the pilot's body was recovered in a shallow area of the Eel River about 2.5 miles downriver from the accident site. On June 15, 2017, the pilot's father reported the accident to the National Transportation Safety Board.

During a postaccident interview, the pilot's wife reported that her husband had a problem with drugs and alcohol and that he was under the influence the day of the accident. She also expressed concerns about her husband performing maintenance on the airplane on the day before the accident while under the influence. She stated that he was attempting to troubleshoot and possibly repair a carburetor problem.

Rex Whitlow

Pilot Information

Certificate: None
Age: 61, Male
Airplane Rating(s): None
Seat Occupied: Single
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used:
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: None
Last FAA Medical Exam:
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time:  2 hours (Total, all aircraft), 2 hours (Total, this make and model), 2 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft) 

According to the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) pilot database, the pilot did not have a pilot certificate or a medical certificate.

According to his father, the pilot had about 2 hours of total flight experience in the accident airplane make and model. The investigation did not identify any other flight time information. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Hy-Tek
Registration: UNREG
Model/Series: Hurricane
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture:
Amateur Built: Yes
Airworthiness Certificate:
Serial Number: 001
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Seats: 1
Date/Type of Last Inspection:  Unknown
Certified Max Gross Wt.:
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time:
Engine Manufacturer: Rotax
ELT: Not installed
Engine Model/Series: 503
Registered Owner: Rex Whitlow
Rated Power: 50 hp
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

The airplane had a high-wing, ultralight-like design with conventional flight controls. The structure consisted of an uncovered aluminum and steel tube framework with a single seat and a tricycle landing gear. The airplane was equipped with oversized tundra-style tires and was powered by a Rotax 503, 50-horsepower, 2-cylinder, 2-stroke engine that was mounted on top of the airframe. Preaccident photographs of the airplane showed a fuel tank that was larger than the manufacturer's 5-gallon fuel tank. Logbook maintenance records were not located. 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Unknown
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KFOT, 393 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 14 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 0935 PDT
Direction from Accident Site: 300°
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Visibility:  10 Miles
Lowest Ceiling: Overcast / 300 ft agl
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts:3 knots / 
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual:
Wind Direction: 320°
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual:
Altimeter Setting: 29.96 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: -11°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Redcrest, CA
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Redcrest, CA
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 0925 PDT
Type of Airspace:

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 40.338889, -123.833333 

The airplane wreckage had been recovered on the day of the accident by family and friends of the pilot and was stored at the pilot's residence. On June 26, 2017, an FAA inspector from the Oakland, California, Flight Standards District Office examined the wreckage. The instrument panel, wings, fuel tank, propeller, propeller hub, wheel assemblies, and one of the two carburetors/air filters had been removed postaccident and prior to the FAA's inspection. The brake handle had been disconnected, and three of the four spark plugs were missing. Some wiring and fuel lines had been cut, and the control cables had been disconnected.

The pistons in the engine did not move, but the inspector observed no damage or excessive discoloration. The available spark plugs showed a normal burn pattern. The lead shielding/insulation for the spark plugs was in poor condition; numerous wires were improperly spliced and routed. The rubber exhaust mounts were also in poor condition. Fuel, water, and oil were found in the engine. The fuel filter was clean. The throttle was in the fully open position, and the ignition switch was on.

The carburetors and air filters were intact, but the float bowls were missing. One of the two main carburetor fuel jets was missing; the pilot's father stated that one of the fuel jets was loose and fell out of the wreckage when it was moved.

Medical And Pathological Information

An autopsy was performed by the Office of the Coroner, Humboldt County Sheriff's Office. The pilot's cause of death was drowning; blunt force trauma contributed to the death.

Toxicology performed by the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office detected, in the pilot's specimens, ethanol in tissue at 0.08 gm/100 gm and methamphetamine at 0.70 mg/kg and its primary active metabolite, amphetamine, at less than 0.10 mg/kg in muscle tissue. Because of the delay in reporting the accident to the NTSB, no specimens were available for testing by the FAA's Forensic Sciences Laboratory.

Ethanol is commonly found in beer, wine, and liquor. It acts as a central nervous system depressant. After ingestion, ethanol impairs judgment, psychomotor functioning, and vigilance. The effects of ethanol on aviators are generally well understood; it significantly impairs pilot performance, even at very low levels. Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations 91.17, Alcohol or Drugs, paragraph (a)(4), prohibits any person from acting or attempting to act as a crewmember of a civil aircraft while having 0.04 gm/dl or more ethanol in the blood.

Methamphetamine is a controlled substance that is used to treat certain medical conditions, but the drug can also be misused. Symptoms of recreational methamphetamine include motor restlessness, hallucinations, delusions, fatigue or drowsiness, and poor impulse control. As the initial effects wear off, users commonly experience dysphoria, restlessness, agitation, and nervousness; they may experience paranoia, violence, aggression, a lack of coordination, delusions, psychosis, and drug craving. Blood levels cannot be used to distinguish among phases of methamphetamine use. Because the effects of methamphetamines are impairing, methamphetamine use is a disqualifying factor for FAA medical certification.

NTSB Identification: WPR17LA126
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, May 04, 2017 in Redcrest, CA
Aircraft: Hy-Tek Hurricane, registration: NONE
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

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 may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On May 4, 2017, about 0945 Pacific daylight time, an unregistered experimental amateur-built Hy-Tek Hurricane, collided with terrain after takeoff near Redcrest, California. The noncertificated pilot sustained fatal injuries; the airplane sustained substantial damage. The local personal flight departed about 0925; visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed.

The pilot's father reported that the pilot departed from a sandbar next to a river. About 20 minutes later, he heard the airplane returning, but the engine was sputtering. He heard the engine stop, and observed the airplane nose into the ground.
 In the foreground, the ultralight that crashed sits on the beach while a boat searching for its pilot zips past on the river. 

Peggy, the cadaver dog handler, and one of her dogs on the river searching for the missing pilot. 

REX ALAN WHITLOW  was born in Scotia, CA on Sept. 27, 1955 to Oral M. Whitlow, Jr., and Mary Louis (Wilson) Whitlow.

Rex flew out of our lives on May 4, 2017 when he crashed his beloved ultra-light aircraft (named the “Mean Green”) into the Eel River near his home in McCann, CA.  He was found May 14, 2017 after family, friends, the Sheriff’s Dept., Search & Rescue plus many others spent days looking for him.

He enjoyed many things:ocean diving, water dowsing while wearing his cowboy gear, riding his Harley to places others wouldn’t go, raising cattle, was a tree faller, horizontal well driller, a super husband, Dad & Grandfather.

He was married to and survived by his high school sweetheart of 43 years, Tracy Marie (Poole) Whitlow.  Other survivors:  Daughters: Trisha & Tami Whitlow.  Grandchildren:  JonJon & Ray Gotcher, Lillian & Payton Sweaney, Tuck Evans. Father:  Oral M. Whitlow, Jr.,  Mother-in-law: Vera Poole Braud.  Brother Randy (Liz) Whitlow.  Nephews:  Levi & Lonny (Hannah) Whitlow.  Grandnieces: Tegan & Gemma Whitlow.  Brother-in-law:  Tim (Kathy) Poole.  Nephew:  Kaman (Marlene) Poole.  

We would like to thank everyone who did so much during the hoping, praying, and searching days.  Our appreciation and love goes to all of you. We will be having a celebration of Rex’s life Saturday June 17, 2017 on the river bar in McCann from 2 PM to whenever. This is an open invitation to all, so bring your favorite dish to share and stories to tell, plus lawn chairs and blankets to keep warm.

Body of pilot recovered from Eel River on Sunday

Press release from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office:

On May 4th at approximately 2pm a search and rescue effort was initiated in the McCann area east of Weott for the pilot of an ultra-light aircraft that had crashed into the main fork of the Eel River. Family members and friends of the Pilot, 61 year old Rex Whitlow, responded to the crash site moments after the crash occurred to find the aircraft upside down in the river. The pilot could not be found.

Cal Fire, members of the Southern Humboldt Technical Rescue Team, and members of the Fruitland Ridge Volunteer Fire Department also responded to assist in the search. Members of the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue team later arrived and assisted in the search with their river rescue boat. A U.S. Coast Guard Helicopter also responded and assisted in the search for the missing pilot. The initial search lasted until dark and did not result in locating the pilot. Search efforts resumed the next morning and continued throughout the day; however search teams were still unable to locate the missing pilot.

Search efforts resumed over the next several days for the pilot who was presumed to be underwater. At one point cadaver search dogs were utilized in the search. The dogs were of assistance however were still unable to determine the exact location of the pilot. Search efforts were hindered by swift and murky water, and by high winds.

On Sunday May 14th at approximately 2pm, family friends who were still searching the area finally located the body of Pilot Rex Whitlow in a shallow area of the river nearly three miles from the original crash scene.

The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office would like to give special thanks to the friends and family of Rex Whitlow who were extremely diligent and persistent in their search efforts. The community is deeply saddened by the loss of lifelong McCann resident, Rex Witlow.

Anyone with information for the Sheriff’s Office regarding this case or related criminal activity is encouraged to call the Sheriff’s Office at 707-445-7251 or the Sheriff’s Office Crime Tip line at 707-268-2539.

The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department and Southern Humboldt County Technical Rescue are postponing the search for the local pilot missing since the crash of his ultralight plane on Thursday. Windy weather and high, murky water have hampered search efforts.

“As of today, unless something changes, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office and Tech Rescue will be postponing our operations till later in the week,” explained Diana Totten a spokesperson for the Tech Rescue team. “Hopefully, by then conditions will improve…Our hearts go out to the family. They will be continuing the search in the days to come.”

Totten stated,

Today marks the 3rd day of a coordinated effort to find the pilot. The HCSO with Southern Humboldt Technical Rescue swimmers and many family and friends have searched hard in the area of the ultralight plane crash. We have also extended the search several miles downstream.

During the last 3 days the water has been swift moving and very murky with practically zero visability
and then today with the strong wind, it has been extremely challenging.

With the snow melt from the Yolla Bollies, the river has remained very swift complicating our work.

A number of agencies, volunteer groups, and private individuals have been part of the search–Fruitland Ridge Fire Department, Redcrest Fire Department, Cal Fire, the Coast Guard, Southern Humboldt County Technical Rescue, Humboldt County Sheriffs Department with jet boats, as well as five private boats belonging to family and friends, several jet skis, private divers, several private planes, and dozens of volunteers.

Totten said these groups have all been working in a coordinated effort. “We have safety briefings as well as strategic planning so we can all work together effectively in very hazardous conditions,” she explained.

Totten says her team hopes to resume the search when conditions are more favorable.

Totten wanted to thank “all who donated food and drinks for the search effort.”

As evening settled last night, boatloads of the family and friends of missing pilot, Rex Whitlow, were again dragging the river looking for their loved one. Whitlow, went missing May 4 when the Ultralight plane he was piloting crashed near the main stem of the Eel River east of Weott. The close-knit family and their community of friends will continue looking today, Mother’s Day, the 11th day since the crash.

Yesterday, the family was joined by members of the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office and the Southern Humboldt County Technical Rescue Team (SHCTRT).

“Dragging for the body is tedious and heart-wrenching,” Diana Totten, a volunteer with SHCTRT explained.

She described what happened during the search on Saturday for us:

[S]ince the small plane crash into the river near MaCann on May 4th, private and agency search teams have been searching the waters near the plane crash site as well as several miles downstream…[Yesterday] we were able to get search dogs from Del Norte County…These dogs are specially trained cadaver dogs that can work water search.

We started with one dog on the sheriff boat with his handler….drifting slowly from the crash site downstream, at a certain area about a mile from the crash site the dog was alerting. This alert was [on] an area of about 1/4 mile…[The handler and dog were] unable to get a smaller area narrowed down.We went to the camp and got the second dog and tried the same drift and at the same general area the second dog alerted.

This gave hope to searchers as to have a general location…The water is about 10-12 feet deep at this stretch of the river.

Totten said that a diver with tanks, a friend of the Whitlow’s, went into the river there but she said, “[W]ith the swiftness and murky water, it was impossible to see more than 12inches.” Eventually, Totten said the team had to leave. But she explained that the search is still considered to be ongoing and will continue. At this point, the Sheriff’s Department and SHCTRT is looking for clearer water. The murky water from the snow melt and wet spring weather has impeded their search.

“[O]ur hope is for clear water with a little more visibility,” Totten said. “[O]ur hearts go out to the family and we will be going back as conditions dictate.”

Meanwhile, the family keeps searching for Rex.

Original article can be found here:

Earlier Chapters:
UltraLight Plane Crashes in Eel Near McCann; Rescuers Search for Local Pilot
Searchers for Missing Pilot Vow to Work Until Dark Though Heat and Wind Are Taking Their Toll
Rescue Team Member Lost Wallet Searching for Downed Pilot
Search Teams Continue Looking for Missing Pilot
Search for Missing Pilot Postponed.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.