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Feds: Pilot disoriented in SC crash that killed 2

By Bruce Smith
Associated Press / April 23, 2012
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CHARLESTON, S.C.—A Massachusetts pilot became disoriented practicing instrument approaches causing his single-engine plane to plow into an RV Park in North Myrtle Beach last year, the National Transportation Safety Board has concluded.

The agency, in a report released last week, determined the probable cause of the crash that killed two people and seriously injured a third was that the pilot was disoriented.

The January 2011 crash claimed the life of the pilot, 62-year-old Kenneth Thode of Plymouth, Mass., as well as killing another New Englander on the ground, 70-year-old Eva Sullivan of Sunapee, N.H. A second person on the ground was seriously injured.

The plane hit a tree, a pickup truck and a travel trailer on the ground as it sliced into the RV park. Both the plane and the truck exploded on impact. Thode had a vacation home in the area and sometimes flew his 2004 single-engine Cessna, from Massachusetts to South Carolina.

The NTSB said that an investigation did not turn up any problems with the plane, the flight instruments or the engine.

Just before the accident, the airport tower radioed Thode to radio in when he was going to start his instrument approach.

He radioed back that he had gotten himself "a little bit out of whack" and then radioed he was "just trying to straighten it out."

The radar indicated the plane turned about 150 degrees to the right before radar contact was lost and the crash occurred. The skies were overcast and it was misty at the time of the accident. The report concluded that "the environmental conditions that existed during the flight and the pilot's actions and responses indicate that he likely experienced spatial disorientation."

The accident was the second time in a year someone died on the ground in a plane crash in South Carolina.

A man was struck and killed on Hilton Head Island in March 2010 as a plane tried to make an emergency landing on the beach.

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