A pilot who survived a 2004 biplane accident will be charged with negligent homicide, according to authorities. Pilot Mark Strub was the survivor of the August 28, 2004 airplane accident in which passenger Kimberly Reed was killed. On the day of the accident, Strub was donating his time and his plane to offer free 10-minute place rides as part of the Wisconsin Rapids 2004 Children’s Miracle Network Balloon Rally.
Reed was not the only passenger to board Strub’s Stearman PT-13 on that day in 2004. Three people prior to Reed boarded the plane and got a free plane ride with no incident. According to the NTSB Probable Cause report filed about the accident, Reed asked Strub specifically for an aerobatic flight, which involved both pilot and passenger to wear parachutes.
The aircraft carrying Strub and Reed climbed to 3,000 feet AGL and Strub performed a number of manoeuvres in the air, including one loop, a Cuban eight, and two hammerhead stalls. After the successful flight, Strub was returning his passenger to the airport. While flying over the Wisconsin River at an altitude of 50 feet, the aircraft struck power lines. The aircraft – with both on board – came to rest inverted in Nepco Lake. The aircraft was submerged in about 3 or 4 feet of water. It is believed that Reed died on impact. Strub sustained only minor injuries.
Other pilots and even bystanders rallied to Strub’s defence. Many point out that the pilot was donating time and the aircraft for a charitable cause and that the incident was a tragic accident. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), however, determined that the probable cause of the accident was “The pilot’s improper in-flight decision when he decided to fly at a low altitude over the river and failed to maintain clearance from the power lines.”
Recent NTSB statistics show that General Aviation accident rates have been declining over the past 10 years. The rate of accidents for 2004 was 6.2 accidents for every 100,000 flight hours. 1.2 of those accidents proved fatal. In 2004, 1,413 General Aviation accidents were reported, and 290 of those were fatal.