LABELLE, FL. (Oct. 16, 2005) -- The LaBelle Municipal Airport was the scene
of a deadly aircraft accident Sunday afternoon. A female student pilot from
the Fort Pierce, Fl. area, as yet officially unidentified by authorities,
was practicing cross-country flying and "touch and go landings" at the
LaBelle airport when observers speculate that she may have attempted to
depart the runway in the rented Cessna 172 single-engine aircraft with flaps
still fully extended at too high an angle of attack, stalling the aircraft
wings and causing the aircraft to spin downward into the ground after losing
aerodynamic lift from the wings.
The four seat aircraft hit the ground at probably a speed in excess of 60
miles per hours headfirst, collapsing the front of the aircraft immediately
on impact causing the engine to move into the cabin several feet. A witness
was painting an empty fuel tank only a hundred yards away from the impact
site just feet from the west side and midway down runway 32 at the LaBelle
Monday morning, an official from the National Transportation Safety Board
arrived and began the accident investigation process. The NTSB is the
official government agency charged with all aircraft accident
investigations. The LaBelle Fire Department helped to saw the fuselage in
half in preparation for the government's inspection of the aircraft,
instruments, and engine. An official probable cause report will not be
available for many months, although a summary report of the facts of the
accident will be available within a few weeks.
The aircraft was leased to a Ft. Pierce flight school by Christiansen
Aviation in Wilmington, Del. Owner William Christiansen said the company is
based in Tulsa, Okla. Representatives of the company flew in Sunday
afternoon to LaBelle, and again Monday morning.
According to government records there have been five fatalities in the
LaBelle area in aircraft since 2001. In June of 2001, a pilot flying an
unregistered ultralight craft illegally died along with a passenger. It is
illegal to carry passengers in unregistered aircraft. The cause, according
to the NTSB was "The inadvertent stall/spin by the pilot resulting in an
uncontrolled descent and impact with the ground.
In March 2004, another ultralight aircraft crashed with a fatality to the
pilot and passenger when the pilot overstressed the aircraft in an abrupt
pull up causing the right wing to detach. In April 2004 yet another
ultralight aircraft crashed and killed the pilot. The NTSB says old and
contaminated auto gas in the Rotax brand engine had turned to a "gel-like
consistancy" causing the engine to stop.