Report: Pilot in deadly crash had cocaine in system

Posted: Friday, September 23, 2005

ANCHORAGE - The pilot of a plane that crashed after missing its approach while trying to land at the Kodiak airport last year had alcohol and cocaine in his system, a federal report says.

The National Transportation Safety Board's report on the June 14, 2004, fatal crash says the probable cause of the accident was pilot Mark Mueller's failure to follow procedures for missed approaches to the airport.

The report says dense fog and equipment problems contributed, but says "additional factors were the pilot's impairment from cocaine, alcohol and over the counter cold medication, and the FAA's inadequate medical certification of the pilot and follow-up of his known substance abuse problems."

FAA officials in Alaska disputed that claim.

"I don't know that we knew he had substance abuse problems. He had a history of substance abuse problems. There's a difference," Willis Simmons, the FAA's regional flight surgeon in Alaska, said.

Mueller, 56, never lied to the agency, Simmons said. But the federal report says Mueller had experienced a series of substance abuse and drunken driving problems over more than a decade.

When he died in the Long Island crash, Mueller faced a hearing proposing the suspension of his license for landing a plane on the taxiway, not the runway, at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport in May 2004, the NTSB report and FAA officials said.

A month later, a witness in Kodiak saw the 1952 Beech C-45H Volpar turboprop plane flying very low over the water in dense fog before it crashed at the southern end of Long Island just before noon, the report said. He was the only person on board.

NTSB investigator Clint Johnson said the crash likely resulted from a combination of factors, including several that were unrelated to alcohol or drug use.

"This was absolutely not your average case," Johnson said. "There are three things we normally look at: man, machine and environment. It's not often that you have all three in one accident."

Johnson said one of the plane's engines were probably not working. The weather was bad, with a low ceiling, poor visibility and rain. The report also said that Mueller should have been flying with a co-pilot, as operation procedures specified.

FAA tests conducted after the crash found traces of cocaine, alcohol and a sedating antihistamine in Mueller's body, the report says.

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