Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board cited "improper fuel management" as the likely cause for a May 2011 plane crash in Ravenna that injured the pilot and two passengers, according to a recent report.
The airplane, piloted by Stow resident Thomas J. Bell, took off from Akron Fulton Airport and flew for eight minutes before the pilot attempted to land the Mooney M20R in Ravenna's Chestnut Hills Park.
According to the NTSB report, filed in the last week of February, a witness at the scene reported the airplane was not making noise as it attempted to land. The plane then struck a tree with its right wing, which was torn from the aircraft, before crashing in the park.
Emergency workers had to cut the wreckage of the aircraft open to extricate the pilot and his two passengers, Neil and Dawn Semple of Ravenna.
Bell and Dawn Semple were transported from the scene to Akron City Hospital by helicopter, while an ambulance transported Neil Semple to nearby Robinson Memorial Hospital in Ravenna.
According to the report, Bell stated that the flight, scheduled to end in Youngstown, was for the purpose of "demonstrating the airplane to potential shareholders" in his aviation business, 2201 Inc.
According to the NTSB report, both Neil Semple, who is also a pilot, and Bell stated in interviews following the crash that the plane had 70 gallons of fuel on board before the flight began.
After the crash, the plane's left fuel tank was nearly full, containing 40 gallons of fuel. The right fuel tank was compromised during the crash, and no fuel remained inside when investigators arrived.
The report states that both tanks had been full, with 44.5 gallons in each wing tank, at the time of the plane's last annual inspection before the crash.
According to the report, "there was no additional evidence provided by the pilot or owners indicating that fuel had been added to the airplane subsequent to the airplane's inspection," while data recovered from the plane indicated it had been operated for more than two hours following the inspection.
Information provided to investigators by the plane's manufacturer indicated that the plane's engine would burn between 21 and 22 gallons of fuel per hour of operation.
NTSB investigators concluded the probable cause of the crash was "the pilot's improper fuel management, which resulted in a loss of engine power due to fuel starvation."
The NTSB report echoed an earlier Federal Aviation Administration report, which stated "(Bell's) competency is in question due to data indicating that the engine was starved of fuel. Fuel calculations indicate that the right fuel tank would have been empty at the time the engine stopped producing power."
Following the crash, the Semples filed suit against Bell and 2201 Inc., claiming his "negligent, reckless and careless in the management of the aircraft's fuel supply," adding they "each suffered severe, disabling and permanent injuries, including but not limited to multiple fractures, disfiguration (sic), debilitating spinal and cognitive injuries, pain and shock." The court case is still playing out in the Portage County Court of Common Pleas.
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