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Pilot, Passengers Disappear After Crash

But They Forgot To Take The Drugs They Were Smuggling

It might have been cocaine, it might have been some other drug. But a crash investigation near the Wheeling-Ohio County Airport in West Virginia has become a criminal investigation. State police say large amounts of illegal drugs were found on the aircraft.

It began at around 1500 local Sunday afternoon, when a navaid at the departure end of the runway was damaged. Airport workers went to find out why. More than 90-minutes later, the Civil Air Patrol picked up an ELT transmission from near the end of the runway. CAP members were searching for the source of the transmission some three miles east of the airport near the town of West Derby, according to the Wheeling paper.

The Smith PA-60 Aerostar was apparently taking off at around 1500 local Sunday afternoon when it ran off the departure end of the runway and came to rest at the bottom of a hill in some woods.

"The aircraft sustained substantial damage," Airport Manger Thomas Tominack told the Wheeling News-Register. There was "no fire involved," he said. Part of a wing had been torn off, but the fuselage remained "pretty much intact."

But airport officials and law officers became suspicious when they found no one at the scene of the accident, even though it appeared the pilot had been hurt.

Tominack said no one at the airport knew very much about the aircraft, the pilot or the Sunday afternoon flight. The reason? "[N]umerous unorthodox flight procedures" the aircraft was exhibiting, he told the paper. He said there was no flight plan filed, leaving a big blank on questions of where the flight originated and where it was going.

The aircraft was registered to James May of Auburn, AL. Two other owners were in the FAA's registry database -- Richard D. Starr And James L. Starr LLC.

Both James Lewis Starr and Richard David Star are also listed as residents of Auburn, AL. Records at the Alabama Secretary of State's web site show they own a construction company.

FAA Preliminary Accident Report

IDENTIFICATION
 Regis#: 60CF    Make/Model: AEST   Description: PA-60 AEROSTAR
 Date: 12/19/2004   Time: 1500

 Event Type: Accident  Highest Injury: None   Mid Air: N  Missing: N
 Damage: Unknown

LOCATION
 City: WHEELING          State: WV  Country: US

DESCRIPTION
 ACFT WENT OFF THE DEPARTURE END OF THE RUNWAY AND WENT DOWN THE BOTTOM OF
 THE HILL, WHEELING OHIO COUNTY AIRPORT, WHEELING, WV

INJURY DATA   Total Fatal:  0
         # Crew:  0  Fat:  0   Ser:  0   Min:  0   Unk:  Y
         # Pass:  0   Fat:  0   Ser:  0   Min:  0   Unk:  Y
         # Grnd:       Fat:  0   Ser:  0   Min:  0   Unk: 

WEATHER: NOT REPORTED                               

OTHER DATA
 Activity: Unknown   Phase: Unknown   Operation: General Aviation

 Departed:               Dep Date:  Dep. Time:  
 Destination:             Flt Plan:       Wx Briefing:
 Last Radio Cont:
 Last Clearance:

 FAA FSDO: ALLEGHENY CO., PA (EA03)       Entry date: 12/20/2004

FMI: www.ntsb.gov

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