Witnesses Observed The Accident Airplane Descending Through The Clouds Rapidly, In A Nose Down Profile

Location: Oxbow, OR Accident Number: WPR23FA141
Date & Time: April 2, 2023, 09:50 Local Registration: N424SW
Aircraft: Cirrus Design Corp SR22 Injuries: 2 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation – Personal

On April 2, 2023, at 0950 Pacific daylight time, a Cirrus Design Corporation SR22, N424SW, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near Oxbow, Oregon. The pilot and the passenger sustained fatal injuries. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

The accident airplane departed Caldwell Executive Airport (EUL), Caldwell, Idaho about 0930 under visual flight rules, with the intended destination of Lewiston Nez/Perce County Airport (LWS), Lewiston, Idaho. The pilot contacted Big Sky Approach Control at 0934, while heading north at an altitude of 11,900 ft msl and requested flight following. The controller issued a discrete transponder code but did not provide the pilot with an altimeter setting and did not radar identify N424SW. No further communication was observed between the pilot and the controller. The pilot departed 11,900 ft msl and climbed for 38 nm to an altitude of 14,000 ft msl. Shortly after, the airplane made a sharp left turn, and a rapid descent ensued. 

Witnesses on the ground near the accident site, reported hearing the airplane flying in the area, and looked up in the direction of the sound. However, they could not see the airplane or the 4,500 ft peak of a nearby mountain as they were obscured by clouds. Baker City Municipal (BKE), Baker City, Oregon, was 40 nm west of the accident site. The BKE meteorological aerodrome report indicated that about the time of the accident, the cloud layer was broken at 4,300 ft msl and overcast at 5,500 ft msl. Airman’s Meteorological Information (AIRMET) Zulu was in effect at the time of the accident and indicated icing in the area with cloud tops at 14,000 ft msl.

Witnesses observed the accident airplane descending through the clouds rapidly, in a nose down profile, followed by the impact in mountainous terrain. A postimpact fire ensued and was extinguished by area precipitation. One witness reported that nearly 6 minutes after the initial impact, an empty parachute could be seen descending through the clouds. The airplane wreckage was taken to a secure facility for further examination. 

FMI: www.ntsb.gov