Weeks before a small plane slammed into a house in Oregon and killed five people, the owner of the plane told investigators that he was concerned about the pilot’s judgment and spoke to him about his decision-making.
The actions of the pilot, Jason Ketcheson, 36, of Cannon Beach, are a central focus of a National Transportation Safety Board investigation into the fiery crash on Aug. 4, 2008, according to a Portland Oregonian report published online Thursday.
A report listing a probable cause of the crash was expected this fall.
In the report released last month, NTSB investigator Van McKenny wrote that Allen Sprague, the owner of the Cessna 172 rented by Ketcheson, said after the crash that he had been concerned about poor decisions made by the pilot.
“Mr. Sprague said that he had some concerns about letting the pilot continue to fly the airplane after he had returned from a trip with a very low level of fuel remaining,” McKenny wrote. “He discussed with the pilot decision making and ran through some scenarios to make sure the pilot was making consistent and safe aeronautical decisions, and to make sure … ‘his head was in the right place.”‘
McKenny also noted that the crash occurred in heavy fog, although Sprague, a former Navy pilot and owner of Aviation Adventures, said he had given “strict instructions that the plane was only to be flown out of Seaside when the weather was VFR,” or visual flight rules. That means the weather is clear enough for a pilot to see where an aircraft is going.
Ketcheson, a sales representative for a time-share company, was licensed as a commercial pilot and instructor with instrument ratings. He had rented the plane a handful of times and renewed his medical certification two months before the crash, according to the report.
Besides limiting Ketcheson to VFR conditions, Sprague said he told the pilot not to take any passengers.
With Ketcheson on the flight from Seaside to Klamath Falls was Frank Toohey, 58, who lived north of Gearhart.
Both died in the crash, along with three children from two families that were staying in the brown-shingled bungalow struck by the plane. The children killed were: Julia Reimann, 10, of Portland, and her cousins, Hesam “Sam” Farrar Masoudi, 12, and Grace Masoudi, 7, both of Denver.
Ruth Johnson-Reimann, Reimann’s mother; the girl’s brother, Christopher Reimann, 13, and her sister, Sarah Reimann, 11, were treated for severe burns and survived.
In a lawsuit filed in February in Multnomah County Circuit Court in Portland, Matt and Ruth Reimann claim that Ketcheson was negligent in following flight rules, controlling the aircraft, taking adequate emergency measures and doing a proper “run up” before takeoff.
The suit also said Ketcheson was under the influence of a sleeping aid. A forensic toxicology report submitted by the Federal Aviation Administration reveals that Zolpidem, a prescription medication used to treat insomnia, was found in Ketcheson’s urine and bloodstream.
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