SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - An investigation into a 2018 plane crash that killed all six people aboard found that one of two pilots aboard the aircraft had remants of drugs in his system and that the plane exceeded its weight limit, according to a federal report.
The two pilots and four passengers on the plane were all killed in the April 9, 2018, crash near Scottsdale Airport because the pilot during the initial climb “was unable to maintain airspeed which resulted in a loss of control,” the National Transportation Safety Board said in its final report issued Tuesday.
The single-engine plane banked while still at low altitude and crashed in a fireball on a golf course 70 seconds after taking off from Scottsdale Airport in metro Phoenix to fly to the North Las Vegas Airport the evening of April 9, 2018.
A factual report released April 6 by the safety agency had said the single-engine Piper PA-24 Comanche was overweight from a combination of occupants, baggage and fuel.
The final report said an examination of the wreckage found a broken spring on a cylinder valve that surface damage indicated had failed at some point before the crash and had gone undetected. “It is likely that the failure reduced the available engine power that, although undetectable during previous flights, was more critical with the overloaded condition of the accident flight.”
The report said the plane was 135 pounds (61.2 kilograms) over its weight limit of 3,200 pounds (1,451 kilograms) and its center of gravity was more than 2 inches (5 centimeters) too far back in the plane, reducing its stability during flight.
A National Transportation Safety Board factual report posted on the agency’s website said an autopsy found ecstasy and inactive cocaine metabolites in urine and blood samples from a student pilot.
The factual report also said an autopsy found that student pilot James Pedroza had remnants of the illegal drug known as ecstasy and metabolic remnants of cocaine in his system, but the final report said those drug remnants indicated past use, not use immediately before the crash, and “were not a factor in this accident.”
No drugs were found in the other pilot, who was described as an experienced pilot and flight instructor who had flown the plane to Scottsdale from North Las Vegas to pick up the student pilot and four passengers.
The report said the plane’s weight limit was 3,200 pounds and that its estimated weight at takeoff was 3,335 pounds.
According to the report, investigators couldn’t determine which pilot was working the controls when the crash occurred.
Passengers killed in the crash included internet “social influencer” Anand Patel, internet model Mariah Coogan, Helena Lagos and Iris Carolina Rodriguez Garcia.
Two lawsuits over the crash have been filed in Las Vegas.