PALATKA, Fla. – The preliminary report in a single-engine plane crash last month in Palatka that killed a 71-year-old passenger suggests there was some kind of engine problem, possibly with the spark plugs.
The pilot, 73-year-old Richard Carrara, reported "the engine did not respond" to an approach maneuver, and a witness saw gray smoke coming from the exhaust, according to the National Transportation Safety Board report.
"Examination of the wreckage revealed that there was no evidence of any pre-impact structural or flight control failure, and that there was fuel onboard the airplane when it came to rest," the report reads. "Examination of the engine revealed no evidence of pre-impact mechanical failure of the engine drivetrain. However, examination of the spark plugs revealed that they were carbon fouled."
The Cessna 400 went down about 1,500 feet from the runway at Kay Larkin Field.
Malcolm Clevenstine, the passenger, died at a hospital. Both men were Palm Coast residents.
The Florida Highway Patrol said the plane had just completed a touch-and-go on the runway about 10:50 a.m March 21 when the engine stalled and it crashed into the edge of a retention pond behind a Lowe's store. The plane then struck a grassy embankment, went through a chain-link fence, hit a concrete support beam and slid into a stack of pallets.
No one on the ground was injured, but investigators said the plane might have made it all the way into the building if the beam had not slowed the momentum of the plane.
The plane, owned by Carrara, took off from St. Augustine. According to FAA records, the 2008 aircraft had its last airworthiness check three years ago.
Troopers estimated damage to the plane at $25,000.