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N22L accident description

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Tail numberN22L
Accident dateDecember 18, 2005
Aircraft typeCessna 195
LocationSt. Augustine, FL
Near 29.971945 N, -81.267778 W
Additional details: None

NTSB description

On December 18, 2005, about 1333 eastern standard time, a Cessna 195, N22L, was ditched in the Atlantic Ocean near St. Augustine, Florida, following a reported loss of engine power. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed in the area at the time. An instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was filed for the 14 CFR, Part 91, personal flight from Craig Municipal Airport, Jacksonville, Florida, to St. Lucie County International Airport, Fort Pierce, Florida. The airplane has not been recovered, and is presumed to have sustained substantial damage. Of the four people aboard, the commercial pilot and two passengers were fatally injured, and one passenger sustained minor injuries. The flight originated about 1315 from Craig Municipal Airport.

Air traffic control (ATC) information, from Jacksonville Air Traffic Control Tower, indicated that after takeoff, the flight was cleared to climb to 6,000 feet. When near St. Augustine, level at 6,000 feet, the pilot advised the controller of a rough running engine. The controller vectored the flight for an instrument approach to runway 31 at the St. Augustine Airport, but the airplane was unable to reach the airport and the pilot subsequently ditched in the ocean. The surviving passenger reported to law enforcement personnel that she was asleep, and when awakened, heard a discussion about adverse weather. The airplane contacted the water, and she was thrown back into the baggage compartment where she exited the airplane. She swam toward shore, and was subsequently rescued.

ATC transcripts revealed the airplane was climbing through 4,400 feet at 1322, and at 1326 reported they had "just lost an engine," and requested vectors to a beach. The pilot then reported a rough running engine. ATC provided vectors to intercept the instrument landing system (ILS) approach at the St. Augustine Airport, as-well-as appropriate communications and navigation frequencies. ATC advised the pilot to check carburetor heat, to which the pilot replied he already "had it out." At 1328 the pilot advised the airplane was unable to maintain altitude, and ATC vectored the pilot directly toward the airport, reported an overcast ceiling of 500 feet, with visibility three miles in light rain. At 1330, ATC advised the pilot they had lost radar contact, and at 1331 the pilot advise he was over water, and not going to make it to land. Contact with the airplane was lost, and a search was initiated.

According to a Sheriff's Office representative, conditions in area of the ditching were overcast about 500 feet, visibility 1 to 3 miles, and the sea was running 7 to 10 feet. He said the surviving passenger was picked up by a boat while attempting to swim to shore. A deceased passenger was also recovered during the initial search. During an interview at the Sheriff's office, the passenger reported she had been seated behind the pilot, and that the engine quit. She said the pilot restarted the engine, but it quit again. She said she and the other passengers attempted to don life jackets as the pilot glided the airplane toward the water. She said she was attempting to give her life jacket to the front seat passenger when the airplane struck the water. The passenger said she was thrown into the rear baggage compartment of the airplane, and found a partially opened baggage door, through which she escaped. She said the airplane on the surface of the water appeared to be intact, but sank rapidly. She did not see any of the other occupants exit the airplane. She said she started swimming toward the shore, which she estimated to be 2 miles away.

On January 2, 2006, the body of the third passenger was recovered by fisherman. The airplane wreckage was located, and the pilot was recovered by scuba divers. An autopsy performed under the authority of the Medical Examiner revealed that the cause of the pilot's death was asphyxiation due to saltwater drowning.

The airplane was not recovered, and has not been examined by the National Transportation Safety Board. Receipts revealed that the airplane was fueled prior to departure, and tests of the fuel supply did not reveal any anomalies. Examination of records determined the airplane's annual inspection was timely, and no history of mechanical issues were discovered. An examination of pilot log books showed the pilot was appropriately certificated and current.

(c) 2009-2011 Lee C. Baker. For informational purposes only.