Accident Piper PA-34-200T Seneca II N38598, Thursday 8 May 1980
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Date:Thursday 8 May 1980
Type:Silhouette image of generic PA34 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different    
Piper PA-34-200T Seneca II
Owner/operator:Tri-State Aviation
Registration: N38598
MSN: 34-7770327
Year of manufacture:1977
Fatalities:Fatalities: 2 / Occupants: 2
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Destroyed
Location:Santa Ana River, 1/2 mile from Redlands Municipal Airport, Redlands, C -   United States of America
Phase: Initial climb
Departure airport:Redlands Municipal Airport, Redlands, California (FAA LID: L12)
Destination airport:Redlands Municipal Airport, Redlands, California (FAA LID: L12)
Investigating agency: NTSB
Confidence Rating: Information is only available from news, social media or unofficial sources
Written off (destroyed) May 8 1980 during initial climb-out from Redlands Municipal Airport, Redlands, California. Both person on board (pilot and one passenger) were killed. The pilot was not multi-engine rated.The flight was illegal, as the aircraft had been stolen. Post-mortem investigations revealed that the Pilot's blood alcohol level was 0.038%.

The official NTSB report attributed the cause of the crash to spatial disorientation, the "PILOT IN COMMAND - ATTEMPTED OPERATION BEYOND EXPERIENCE/ABILITY LEVEL" and alcohol intoxication/incapacitation of the pilot. According to a contemporary newspaper report (see link #3):

"Pilot's 2nd crash in two weeks
By RICHARD BROOKS Sun Staff Writer
REDLANDS: A Norton Air Force Base serviceman crashed his second plane in two weeks near here, killing himself and another airman, sheriff's deputies said Friday. Airman 1st Class Mark Brunelle, 20, and Sgt. Gary Adams, 28, both assigned to the 63rd Field Maintenance Squadron, crashed in the Santa Ana River wash, about a half-mile from Redlands Airport. Preliminary investigation showed that the twin-engine Piper Seneca II was stolen from the airport about 2:30 a.m., Thursday, shortly before the crash. Aviation officials said Brunelle, the pilot, had only 90 hours of flight experience and was not licensed to fly twin-engine aircraft. Brunelle crashed and narrowly escaped death on Saturday when he rented single-engine Cessna 152 in Mill Creek Canyon. He and passenger Cary Johnson, 20, of San Dimas, "miraculously" suffered only minor injuries in that accident, officials said. A newspaper clipping about the first accident was found in Brunelle's pocket, a coroner's spokesman said.

The same sheriff's helicopter pilot who rescued Brunelle after the first crash was summoned to the fatal wreck. "I was really shocked when I pulled out the guy's ID card and I saw the that I'd been staring at on my desk all week because of the other plane crash," Lt. Jon Gibson said. Gibson, who estimates he has investigated 200 crashes over the past 10 years, said, "I've only seen one other plane that was torn up worse than this." "It was so bad, I took the liberty of telling them (rescue coordinators) that they didn't need to roll the ambulance out there and I almost never do that," Gibson said. "I think he drove it into the ground going 250 mph at a very shallow angle...and bounced like a rock skipping off a lake."

Officials said Brunelle had driven from Norton to the airport about 12:30 a.m. Thursday with three other airmen to show them the wreckage of the single-engine plane he'd crashed."

Accident investigation:
Investigating agency: NTSB
Report number: LAX80FA096
Status: Investigation completed
Duration: 2 years
Download report: Final report


1. NTSB Identification: LAX80FA096 at
2. FAA:
3. The San Bernardino County Sun at May 10, 1980 at

Revision history:

25-Feb-2008 12:00 ASN archive Added
01-Jan-2017 15:06 Dr. John Smith Updated [Aircraft type, Operator, Location, Phase, Nature, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]

Corrections or additions? ... Edit this accident description

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