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Unauthorized pyrotechnics appear to be cause of fiery Gilbert plane crash

(National Transportation Safety Board Photo)

PHOENIX – A skydiving plane’s unauthorized pyrotechnics display appears to be the culprit in the aircraft’s fiery crash into a Gilbert house three years ago.

A National Transportation Safety Board Aviation Accident Factual Report released last week says the sparkler device attached to the Cessna 182P’s step was not part of the plans cleared by the Federal Aviation Administration for the nighttime jump during the town’s Constitution Fair on Sept. 17, 2016.

Shortly after the device was activated by a jumper, the pilot and lead jumper, who was also a co-owner of the plane, heard an explosion, the report says. They also saw damage to the aircraft and a fire on the left wing, near where the pyrotechnics box was mounted.

The device had been attached with wires that ran through holes drilled through the landing gear bulkhead and cabin floor.

The investigation of the wreckage revealed evidence “consistent with an explosion that originated from the inside of the pyrotechnics box,” the report says.

Four skydivers parachuted to the ground without injury. The pilot stayed in longer, attempting a maneuver he hoped would put out the fire, but put in a distress call before parachuting out.

The flaming plane crashed into the back half of a home near Gilbert and Ray roads. The house was destroyed from the impact and ensuing fire.

The pilot was hospitalized with burns, the only serious injuries from the incident. One occupant in the house suffered a minor injury.

The plane had departed from Chandler Municipal Airport just after 7 p.m. and crashed about 15 minutes later.

Most of the wreckage was found in the house and backyard. The area behind the back fence was an open field.

The pilot passed tests for alcohol and drugs, other than what was used to treat his injuries, according to the report.

The final report on the incident from the National Transportation Safety Board Aviation is still pending.

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