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Carbon monoxide behind fatal plane crash in Guthrie Center


A crack in a muffler allowed engine exhaust gases into the aircraft cabin, resulting in carbon monoxide poisoning that eventually led to a crash killing four people in Guthrie Center, federal safety officials have found. The Piper PA28 took off from Le Mars Municipal Airport Nov. 9, 2018, en route to Osceola for a hunting trip.In addition to the pilot, there was a student pilot on board and two other passengers.About 45 minutes into the flight, the student pilot contacted air traffic control to report what he thought to be a heart attack suffered by the main pilot. He informed controllers that he was taking over from the incapacitated pilot and would attempt to land at a diversion airport.About that time Marshall Burgess, airport authority chairman for Guthrie County Regional Airport, got a call asking how quickly he could get to the airport. He arrived in minutes and tried to prepare for a possible emergency landing. “It was just before dark,” Burgess said. “It wasn’t dark yet, and so our beacon light that comes on when it gets dark enough was not on and we had no runway lights up, so I hurried around as fast as I could to get some runway lights up.”In addition to lights, emergency responders positioned themselves next to the runway. But the plane never arrived.”I did find out that they had been in the area and they had circled the airport, so they were evidently not able to see the airport or the pilot didn’t know how to get the airplane down,” Burgess said.It is also possible that everyone on board the plane was unconscious from carbon monoxide poisoning when the aircraft would have been in position to make a landing. The plane crashed about five miles south and slightly west of the airport. There were no survivors.The Federal Aviation Administration had recommended, but did not require, single-engine airplanes to install carbon monoxide detectors.

A crack in a muffler allowed engine exhaust gases into the aircraft cabin, resulting in carbon monoxide poisoning that eventually led to a crash killing four people in Guthrie Center, federal safety officials have found.

The Piper PA28 took off from Le Mars Municipal Airport Nov. 9, 2018, en route to Osceola for a hunting trip.

In addition to the pilot, there was a student pilot on board and two other passengers.

About 45 minutes into the flight, the student pilot contacted air traffic control to report what he thought to be a heart attack suffered by the main pilot. He informed controllers that he was taking over from the incapacitated pilot and would attempt to land at a diversion airport.

About that time Marshall Burgess, airport authority chairman for Guthrie County Regional Airport, got a call asking how quickly he could get to the airport.

He arrived in minutes and tried to prepare for a possible emergency landing.

“It was just before dark,” Burgess said. “It wasn’t dark yet, and so our beacon light that comes on when it gets dark enough was not on and we had no runway lights up, so I hurried around as fast as I could to get some runway lights up.”

In addition to lights, emergency responders positioned themselves next to the runway.
But the plane never arrived.

“I did find out that they had been in the area and they had circled the airport, so they were evidently not able to see the airport or the pilot didn’t know how to get the airplane down,” Burgess said.

It is also possible that everyone on board the plane was unconscious from carbon monoxide poisoning when the aircraft would have been in position to make a landing.

The plane crashed about five miles south and slightly west of the airport. There were no survivors.

The Federal Aviation Administration had recommended, but did not require, single-engine airplanes to install carbon monoxide detectors.

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