NTSB: Pilot killed in crash on unapproved drug

Posted: Wednesday, July 17, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- The pilot of a sightseeing plane that crashed near Haines last year, killing all aboard, was taking an anti-anxiety drug that should have disqualified him from flying, a report by the National Transportation Safety Board said.

Pilot Chad Beer, 26, of Juneau, had been prescribed the drug Paroxetine by a doctor three months before the July 2001 crash that also killed five passengers, the NTSB said in a report released Monday.

Beer was prescribed the drug, which is marketed under the name Paxil, to combat anxiety over flying in bad weather and giving presentations to tourists during flights.

The drug is not approved by the Federal Aviation Administration. Beer and his doctor did not divulge his use of the medication to his employer, L.A.B. Flying Service of Haines, said NTSB crash investigator Clint Johnson.

The NTSB report did not ascribe a cause of the crash. A final report listing the cause of the crash could be released within four weeks, Johnson said.

Beer was flying a Cherokee Six plane on a 90-minute sightseeing tour of Glacier Bay National Park when he hit a mountain at about 5,500 feet in bad weather.

Beer was flying with another L.A.B plane at the time of the crash. The pilot of the second plane, who was not identified, said he advised Beer against flying through a pass near Davidson Glacier due to low clouds, rain and fog.

Beer last radio transmission said that he was confident the weather would improve on the other side of the pass that they were flying through.

The pilot of the second aircraft took an alternate route and returned to Skagway, where the two planes had originated.

Also killed in the crash was tour guide Marianne Cederberg, 55 of Toronto, and four German tourists. The tourists were Helmut Auer, of Baden-Wurtemberg; Martin Federhofer, of Hamburg; Uwe Kahlbohm, 59, and his wife, Siegrid, 65, of Bremerhaven.

Poor visibility hampered attempts to reach the wreckage for two days after the crash.

The NTSB report found that Beer began taking the drug in May 2001 due to a long-standing history of anxiety. Medical records show the physician informed Beer he should not fly if the drug impared him at all.

The physician, who is not identified in the report, also allegedly told Beer that he would make the information available to his employer if he was asked.

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