Tuesday, June 09, 2020

Piper PA-28-235, N8991W: Fatal accident occurred May 31, 2020 in Carlinville, Macoupin County, Illinois

Wreckage Layout at Accident Site

Aerial View of Accident Site

Wreckage Diagram

Plot of Airplane Position Data

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

Additional Participating Entities: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Springfield, Illinois
Piper Aircraft; Vero Beach, Florida 

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board: https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf 


Location: Carlinville, IL
Accident Number: CEN20LA201
Date & Time: 05/31/2020, 1546 CDT
Registration: N8991W
Aircraft: PIPER PA28
Injuries: 4 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On May 31, 2020, at 1546 central daylight time, a Piper PA-28-235 airplane, N8991W, was destroyed when it impacted terrain near Carlinville, Illinois. The pilot and three passengers were fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

Automated Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B) position data revealed the flight departed Creve Coeur Airport (1H0) at 1518. The pilot proceeded northeast and climbed to about 5,500 ft mean sea level (msl). About 1543:19, at 5,400 ft mean sea level, the airplane entered a left turn, momentarily reversing course from northeast to the southwest. The left turn continued with a significantly decreased turn radius until the airplane was again on a northeast course. About 1545:27, at 5,600 ft msl, the airplane entered a right turn. About 1545:39, the airplane began a right descending spiral until the final data point at 1546:05. The average calculated rate of descent from the apparent beginning of the spiral descent and the final data point was about 6,900 fpm. The accident site was located about 0.15 miles north of the final data point.

The accident site was located on a farm. The overall debris field extended about 455 ft and was oriented on a northeast bearing. The fuselage, engine, and propeller came to rest inverted near a pond. Both wings were separated from the fuselage and fragmented into three sections, all of which were located within the debris field. The stabilator was separated from the aft fuselage and fragmented into two halves. Similarly, the vertical stabilizer was separated and located within the debris field. An initial wreckage layout confirmed that all major airframe structure was located at the accident site.

Further examination is pending. 

A GoPro camera and an Appareo Stratus 3i were recovered at the accident site and are pending review. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: PIPER
Registration: N8991W
Model/Series: PA28 235
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: 3LF, 691 ft msl
Observation Time: 1555 CDT
Distance from Accident Site: 12 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 24°C / 8°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 5 knots / , 90°
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.26 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Maryland Hgts, MO (1H0)
Destination: Maryland Hgts, MO (1H0) 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 3 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 4 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 39.241667, -89.915556

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

Daniel Shedd, front left, texted his mother this photograph Sunday shortly before he left Creve Coeur Airport with his college friends. The pilot, Joshua Sweers, is at front right. In the back row at left is John Camilleri and the man next to him is Daniel Schlosser. The plane crashed near Carlinville, Illinois. 

MACOUPIN COUNTY — Four fraternity brothers in their 30s were killed when a small plane crashed Sunday in Macoupin County, shortly after taking off from the Creve Coeur area, authorities said.

The victims were pronounced dead at the scene at 4:27 p.m. in rural Carlinville. County Coroner Brad Targhetta told the Post-Dispatch that the men had left Creve Coeur Airport at 3:20 p.m. Sunday and were on their way to Michigan.

The crash is being investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board and the Macoupin County sheriff’s office. Tony Molinaro, a spokesman for the FAA, said the plane crashed “under unknown circumstances” and was destroyed on impact.

The victims were identified Monday as pilot Joshua Daniel Sweers, 35, of Lansing, Michigan, and passengers Daniel A. Shedd, 37, of St. Charles, Daniel Schlosser, 39, of Michigan, and John S. Camilleri, 39, of New York.

The four men were in a Piper Cherokee PA 28-235. Its registered owner, Cleared for Takeoff LLC, is in Lansing, Michigan, according to an FAA website.

Shedd worked for the Defense Contract Management Agency at Boeing, where he was an engineer. All four of the men were engineering graduates from Kettering University in Flint, Michigan. They had all belonged to the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity.

Shedd’s father, Charles Shedd of Chesterfield, said his son grew up in Chesterfield and graduated from Parkway Central High School.

“He was a great guy,” he said Monday. “All four of them were great guys.”

Dan Shedd was an avid motorcyclist and had lent one of his BMW motorcycles to Sweers for a year. Sweers, Schlosser and Camilleri flew down to see Dan Shedd on Friday and they all spent the weekend at his home in St. Charles before heading to the airport on Sunday. Charles Shedd said his son planned to fly to Michigan, retrieve his motorcycle from Sweers’ home and ride it back home to St. Charles on Monday, his mother’s birthday.

Charles Shedd said he drove the four men to the airport Sunday. “They were in great spirits,” he said. “They were happy. The weather was great.”

They were on a “gorgeous, well-maintained  Piper PA-28-235 that just passed annual inspection. Josh was proud of it,” Charles Shedd said. Dan Shedd texted a photograph of the four friends, all smiles, moments before takeoff.

Charles Shedd said he tried tracking his son’s flight via an iPhone app along the route, just as his son had done to watch his friends’ approaching flight two days earlier. Shedd said through tears that he was having trouble finding a location. He texted his son but he didn’t reply. He waited until the plane should have landed in Michigan and tried calling his son. He didn’t answer, which was unusual, Shedd said.

So he typed the plane’s tail number into Google.

“I ran across amazing information,” Shedd said. Updated every 15 seconds or so, the website tracked the plane’s air speed, altitude, rate of climb and other details. “I saw for a half hour they climbed at various rates, and then they basically dived into the ground,” Shedd said.

He saw a media alert about a plane crash near Carlinville, and then he and his wife talked to police who confirmed it.

Macoupin County Sheriff Shawn Kahl said several people reported the crash to 911 dispatchers about 3:45 p.m. Sunday. Deputies found the crash site on a private farm near Wonderland Ranch Drive, about 2.5 miles south of Carlinville. The plane went down near a residence on the farm but no one on the ground was hurt, Kahl said.

“Several people saw it and heard it,” Kahl said. “Witnesses heard a noise of some sort but they don’t know what it was. As far as what transpired in the air, I wouldn’t even begin to speculate on that.”

Julie Leefers’ family owns the farm where the plane went down. She said she heard the crash and called 911. She said it was about 100 yards from her residence.

The sheriff said weather wasn’t a factor. It was sunny and in the 70s. The cause of the wreck hasn’t been released by authorities.

The manager of Creve Coeur Airport, Bob Cameron, said he didn’t recognize the plane’s tail number and that the plane wasn’t based there. He said the airport does not have a control tower. He said pilots don’t file a manifest listing who is on board. They also don’t file a flight plan with the airport. Cameron said he didn’t know if the pilot put out a “mayday” call before crashing.

The FAA hasn’t commented on any distress calls and referred that question to the NTSB. A representative with that agency said he had no information about distress calls.



  1. Is this another wing corrosion accident in the Piper aircraft line? https://www.news-journalonline.com/news/20180417/ntsb-wing-of-plane-in-deadly-erau-crash-showed-fractures-metal-fatigue

    1. It'll be interesting to see if the airplane ever had the inspection panels installed for the SB. I recently had them installed on my 235 in order to inspect the spar.

      Actually, pictures of the crash should answer the question if wing separation occurred.

    2. Preliminary report is out, doesn't look like wing separation.

      Structural overload.

    3. Per NTSB, corrosion did not play a role in the ERAU wing seperation accident. And the SB to install inspection plates is NOT related to the main spar or the ERAU accident or the main spar attachment issues at all EITHER..... That service bulletin is to install inspection plates to access the front side of the small, rear spar attach fittings. You can see the back side of this rear spar if you lower the flaps. I don't know why do many people conflate those two issues.

  2. CTAF - Departure

    15:17:45 N8991W: Creve Coeur, traffic, Cherokee 8-9er-9er-1-whiskey departing runway 3-4. Departing the pattern to the north. Creve Coeur.

    source: https://archive-server.liveatc.net/k1h0/K1H0-May-31-2020-2000Z.mp3

  3. Link to prelim report, issued today (6/10/20).

    All major components located within the 455ft debris field. Made a left 360 and then a tight right 360 before contacting the ground.


  4. Tight turn. Hmmm...possible accelerated stall and not structural failure?

    1. Four buds flying together, established at 5k and cruising along, then made a reasonable rate 180 turn which could have carried through to complete a 360. One possibility: Front seat passenger may have been given control to try that 360 turn while the pilot rode safety but it got away from them.

      The report describes a lot of breakup pieces, consistent with high velocity that can be achieved from uncontrolled spiral at 5000 feet as shown in the plot.

      No fire, so NTSB might recover some useful data about bank angle, pitch and speed from glass cockpit equipment memory if it wasn't just steam gauges. That data might show any abrupt shift in flying characteristics from structural failure if that occurred while they still had normal control.

      If no data, rely on just examining separation interfaces, fractures, any old looking cracks that propagated and overload features.

    2. Re-read the report carefully.
      "The accident site was located about 0.15 miles north of
      the final data point."
      "The overall debris field extended about 455 ft and was oriented on a northeast bearing. The fuselage, engine, and propeller came to rest inverted near a pond."

      The accident site is about under the "e" of "Accident Site" in the image "Plot of Airplane Position Data", not where the last data point is, the spiral, or whatever it was then, tightened considerably.

      The report also contains the wreckage diagram with N being up.

      So, the heavy/denser parts, engine and fuselage, are inverted at the end of the debris field and wing and stabilator parts are well before that and some even on top of buildings.

      That sounds like a low level break-up, although I can be wrong.

    3. ^^^^ Correct. Airspeed increased as it spiraled down, with greatest forces from high speed occurring late in the descent, resulting in low level breakup.

  5. Sounds like all of the major portions of the aircraft were all found together. Reduces the likelihood of structural failure such as a wing coming off.

    1. Did you review and understand the wreckage diagram or just post whatever flash of a thought, idea or opinion comes passing through?

      Sorry for this rant, but I gotta say that there is a lot of cognitive dissonance, ignorance, disregard and indifference going on about facts, physics, flying - and, yes, politics - here in the comment section on KR.

      Is that really how some people behave as pilots in command or are you all wannabe pilots?

      I like to come here to learn from thoughtful presentations of experiences, facts, myth-busting and - yes, ideas - to become a better pilot, but not to be confused and sidetracked by unsubstantiated opinions and sometimes outright nasty and gleeful comments about people with different political views.

    2. Good grief - sounds like you need to look elsewhere for your aviation opinions. Key word here is "opinions". I'm a recently retired airline pilot (started flying high school in 1967) and discovered this site only about a year ago. I find it to be very informative and instructive. Yes, occasionally comments are a little heartless, and maybe very ignorant (not in a bad way - just not very learned) , but my experience with comments on this site is quite far from your description. They're "opinions", not accident investigators' comments.

    3. Worth noting that they flew over the wreckage site, according to the track, so there's always the possibility that they dropped debris in the same general location where they ended up. The debris field seems spread out enough to suggest not everything was intact when it hit.

    4. None of the parts found on the roof of the building got there by being "launched" when the fuselage hit the edge of the pond.

      No matter what started the event, the spriral, uncontrolled descent reached a speed that broke up the airplane.

    5. I think the plane was brought down by Triple A fire

  6. I asked an older pilot about this crash. He said the Cherokee series Pipers have four seats but are only supposed to be flown with three passengers if fully loaded with fuel. Four passengers and a full fuel load can cause complete loss of control during take off and landing.

    1. If you were talking about a 140 or 180 I would agree. However, this was a Cherokee 235. It has a useful load of around 1450lbs, so four passengers is entirely possible (even with full fuel).

    2. Your pilot friend is not familiar with the 235 if he believes it is unstable with full fuel and 4 adults, it may have been close to out of CG but should be manageable.

  7. I live about 40 miles to the south of the accident site and use an aircraft salvage company in Carlinville. I called him and asked him if he heard anything. His friend lives down where the accident occurred. His friend said he saw the plane come down, one wing off, in trail, spinning with stabilator coming off in pieces. Four guys, minutes earlier in a standard flight sending happy pics back. Two theories, spar snapped or large bird hit stabilator and caused spin that resulted in terminal velocity break up. It was perfect weather. I flew the day before in that area and it was perfect. So sad....

  8. The initial 180 turn was maintaining altitude ok, then suddenly decreases in radius and starts a rapid descent. Looks similar to a loss of control and over stress during recovery. Very strange for a cross country flight to suddenly lose control in VFR condition at 5,500ft.

    1. Have to question the purpose of making that turn during a cross country flight to Michigan. If it was a maneuvering demonstration gone wrong, GoPro video or phone images may provide insight.

  9. The plotted altitude recordings suggest that the pilot was still very much in control when he initiated the turn to the right. The plane maintained altitude, recording 5500 feet at the data point after the right turn started (see 15:45:39 on the "Plot of Airplane Position Data" image).

    Control forces and wing loading would have to be high to prevent several hundred feet of altitude loss while in the tightened portion of the turns.

  10. Notice the Chevrolet window crank used for the elevator trim

  11. Since 12 people a year — amazingly including a commercial pilot and an airline pilot — manage to kill themselves in the forgiving Cessna 150, it’s easy to understand what these fellows did.

    “Lord what fools these mortals be”
    “Oh brave world that has such creatures in it”
    — William Shakespeare

  12. After reading this information I get a sense of a Graveyard Spiral.

  13. Day, VFR, hard to imagine graveyard spiral.

  14. A graveyard spiral can occur VFR or IFR, how ever in IFR is a result of spacial disoriention.

  15. Final report with most answers to arrive within a year. Hopefully.