The single-engine plane crashed on its approach to Jesse Viertel Memorial Airport on April 24, 2017 after clipping two power lines, killing both the pilot and the passenger.
Multiple illegal drugs were in the pilot’s system when a small plane crashed in Cooper County on April 24, 2017, killing the pilot and passenger, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
Charles McCutcheon, 67, of Fayette had used cocaine, methamphetamine, clonazepam and diphenhydramine before the flight, according to toxicology reports performed by the St. Louis University Toxicology Laboratory and the Federal Aviation Administration's Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory in Oklahoma City. McCutcheon also had severe damage to his left optic nerve that made him nearly blind in that eye and caused him to wear an eye patch, according to the safety board.
An autopsy performed by the Boone County Medical Examiner’s Office showed that McCutcheon’s coronary arteries were significantly blocked, but there was no evidence of any acute blockage of blood that could have caused a heart attack. The combination of the drugs and impaired vision likely caused the crash, the safety board determined in a final report released in November.
McCutcheon was coming in to land a Bellanca 17-31ATC “Super Viking”, single engine, 310 horsepower, four seat light plane at the Jesse Viertel Memorial Airport in Boonville. McCutcheon had left the Viertel airport that morning without a flight plan, and was returning to the airport from an unknown location, according to the safety board.
At 1:39 p.m., the plane clipped an unmarked, but visible power line about 75 feet above the ground and a half-mile north of the approach end of the runway, according to the safety board. The plane clipped another, 15-foot power line about 100 feet south of the first, then crashed nose down into Highway 98.
The crash killed McCutcheon and his only passenger, Bryan Roth, 49, of Franklin. Airport manager John Taylor told the safety board that McCutcheon often had a low descent, but he remembered his descent being even lower than usual on the day of the crash.
The sky was clear at the time of the crash, and an examination of the plane didn’t determine anything that would have caused the crash, according to the safety board.
The Bellanca plane was registered to Fayette-based Select Aircraft, LLC, and McCutcheon was using it for a personal flight, according to the safety board. It had been built in 1973 and had last been inspected on Jan. 28, 2017, three months before the crash. At the time it was inspected, the plane had logged 1,899.6 hours of flight time. It had been modified with a turbocharger, according to the safety board.
McCutcheon was a commercial-rated pilot who stated on an application in 2013 that he had 4,840 hours of flight time, but his flight experience at the time of the crash could not be determined, according to the safety board. He earned an associates degree in aviation from Moberly Area Community College and flew single- and twin-engine planes for ten years as a commercial pilot, according to his obituary in the Fayette Advertiser. He was also a certified flight instructor.
“Chuck frequently helped people get a ‘leg up’ when needed,” his obituary read, “doing so with love, generosity and trusting that all persons should be treated equally.”
Bryan Roth was a veteran of the U.S. Army who served in Operation Desert Storm and had recently accepted a position at the Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital in Columbia, according to his obituary in the Columbia Missourian.