Investigators say pilot in fatal Alaska crash was drunk

December 12, 2019 GMT

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The pilot of an airplane in a fatal Alaska crash had six times the legal limit of alcohol in his system for flying, according to federal investigators.

The revelations were in a report by the National Transportation Safety Board, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

Charles Weimer, 31, and three others died in the Aug. 4 crash near Girdwood, a ski town in the municipality of Anchorage. Also killed was the airplane’s owner, Karl Erickson, 55, and David Osborn, 60, both of Girdwood, and Paul Wiley, 37, of Superior, Arizona.

The Piper PA-22-150 left Girdwood at about 4:15 p.m. and crashed 15 minutes later in steep terrain on Goat Mountain, investigators said.

Erickson was a student pilot. Before the flight, he told a friend that Weimer, an airline transport pilot, would be at the controls for the short sightseeing trip, according to the NTSB report.

Erickson “indicated that he and the pilot had been drinking alcoholic beverages,” investigator Brice Banning wrote. The NTSB report did not identify a probable cause of the crash.

Toxicology results showed that Weimer’s blood-alcohol was 0.238. Federal regulations limit alcohol levels to 0.04 for airplane crew members.

The report says that at levels above 0.15, “individuals may have significant loss of muscle control and major loss of balance.” At levels over 0.20, “individuals may experience amnesia or blackouts and double vision.”

Investigators also found that the plane’s gross weight at the time of the accident was about 50 pounds (22.7 kilograms) over the approved maximum.

Numerous people saw the plane flying parallel to a mountain ridge before it turned and descended. It disappeared from view and witnesses saw a plume of black smoke.

The state medical examiner found the cause of Weimer’s death was injuries from the crash but also that alcohol intoxication “may be viewed as a factor contributing to death.”