Fatal crash pilot Sam Ferns was on meth: ATSB report

Tim EdmundsAlbany Advertiser
The crash scene. Inset: Sam Ferns
Camera IconThe crash scene. Inset: Sam Ferns Credit: Albany Aerial Imaging

A pilot had a “significant” concentration of methamphetamine in his body when he crashed his light aircraft near Albany two years ago, an investigation has found.

Sam Ferns, 40, was flying his own Cessna 210 on a private flight from Albany to Bunbury when the plane crashed 30km northwest of Albany in the Mt Lindesay National Park shortly after take-off on October 24, 2017.

The final report into the crash released by the Air Transport Safety Bureau today included a toxicology report which stated the waterbombing pilot had a significant concentration of the drug in his system.

“Based on empirical data and the toxicology report, the consultant advised it was reasonable to conclude that at the time of the accident, the concentration of methylamphetamine was at least sufficiently high for the pilot to have been significantly affected by the drug,” the report states.

“It is possible that the pilot was very markedly affected and there was potential for lethal effects of the drug, most commonly as a result of effects on cardiac function.”

Plane crash victim picture of the scene where pilot Sam Ferns was killed.
Camera IconPlane crash victim picture of the scene where pilot Sam Ferns was killed. Credit: WA Police

The crash was reported about 11.15am after witnesses heard a “loud cracking sound”.

A preliminary report released two months after the crash revealed the light plane broke up mid air indicative of the debris trail which extended about 700m long and 250m wide.

The ATSB said today “abnormal operation” of the aircraft led to an unusual aerodynamic loading on the right wing and mid-air breakup.

“The aircraft did not have a pre-existing structural deficiency or damage that would have contributed to the in-flight break-up and the local meteorological conditions were not conducive to inadvertent aircraft overstress,” the report states.

“The ATSB found that the presence of methylamphetamine in the pilot’s system increased the risk of operational misjudgements and aircraft mishandling, and pilot incapacitation. This did not necessarily contribute to the accident.”

Sam Ferns
Camera IconSam Ferns

In a touching tribute two months after the crash, father Geoff Ferns said his son would be remembered for his loyalty and the love he showed his children.

“One of Sam’s big attributes was loyalty,” he said.

“I do not remember anyone who got so much out of the time spent with their children.”

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