NTSB says cargo pilot in fatal crash had cocaine in his blood

Posted: Wednesday, January 23, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The National Transportation Safety Board says the pilot of a DC-3 cargo plane that crashed last January near Unalaska had cocaine in his blood.

In addition, the agency says the first officer aboard the plane was taking antidepressants without the knowledge of the Federal Aviation Administration.

The recently released report, which is a finding of facts, does not assign a probable cause for the Majestic Air Cargo crash, which killed captain Jody Pond, 53, and first officer Angela Drennan, 39, who was also Pond's girlfriend.

NTSB investigator Scott Erickson has forwarded his report to the board, which typically issues a final report on the probable cause within two months.

It is rare to find illegal drugs in the blood of pilots involved in crashes, Erickson said.

The Majestic DC-3 struck a 1,500-foot mountain about 4 1/2 miles northwest of Unalaska after a nighttime takeoff on Jan. 23, 2001. The two pilots were the only people aboard the plane.

A toxicological examination of Pond's blood found 0.062 micrograms per milliliter of cocaine, according to the report, and cocaine metabolites were found in his blood and urine. Erickson said he could not speculate about how much cocaine Pond had taken or when he took it.

The NTSB report says Pond had a prior substance abuse problem. He was convicted in 1985 of conspiracy and distribution of cocaine and served four years in federal prison. He regained his FAA medical certificate in 1991 and founded Majestic in 1997. He served as president and operations director for the small, two-plane cargo company. The company went out of business after the crash.

An analysis found Drennan's blood contained amitriptyline and nortriptyline, two mood-altering antidepressant drugs. Pilots are required to inform the FAA of any prescriptions they are taking. The NTSB report says Drennan did not do that.

In 1988, the FAA revoked Drennan's medical certificate due to a history of seizures. She appealed to an administrative law judge, which reversed the decision in 1991, allowing her to continue flying.

Both pilots had been involved in previous crashes. Pond crash-landed a DC-3 in 1998 in a swamp near Point MacKenzie after running out of fuel.

His pilot's certificate was suspended for 45 days. Later that year, a DC-3 piloted by Pond was damaged while landing in Anchorage. Drennan was the first officer in both incidents.

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