Jul. 13—A plane that crashed in an east Medford neighborhood in the summer of 2019 did so because it was drawing fuel from an empty reserve tank rather than the primary tank the pilot had filled before takeoff.
The National Transportation Safety Board lists "fuel starvation" as the official cause of the crash June 8, 2019, during which a 1947 Beech 35 Bonanza crashed into a tree in 2300 block of Whittle Avenue.
The report states that Boise pilot Mathew William Thompson — who was convicted last month of a federal drug charge for his role trafficking several pounds of hash oil from Cave Junction before the crash — did not cooperate with the NTSB in the crash investigation.
Investigators, however, determined that the probable cause of the accident to be "the pilot's mismanagement of fuel onboard, which resulted in a total loss of engine power due to fuel starvation."
The NTSB determined that Thompson likely didn't position the fuel selector switch to one of the main fuel tanks.
Upon NTSB's inspection of the wreckage, investigators found the fuel selector valve in the auxiliary position. The main fuel tanks had "a sufficient quantity of fuel," but the auxiliary tank was nearly empty.
A passenger in the plane, Zachary Wayne Moore of Boise, reportedly told a Federal Aviation Administration inspector that shortly after takeoff, the plane began to have engine trouble. Thompson resorted to "pumping up and down on a device that kept the engine running."
The 1947 aircraft had a hand-operated auxiliary or "wobble" fuel pump, according to the NTSB investigation.
Neither the pilot nor passenger had voice mailboxes set up when the NTSB sought to reach them for follow-up the week after the crash, according to the report.
Investigators obtained a receipt from Million Air showing that prior to takeoff the aircraft had been filled with 18.5 gallons of aviation fuel.
The plane crash sparked simultaneous drug investigations in Southern Oregon and Idaho, for which both the pilot and passenger have since been sentenced.
Witnesses described on scene how Moore and Thompson immediately returned to the wreckage the afternoon of June 19, even as a bystander warned the plane was leaking fuel, according to earlier news reports. Thompson had purchased about 4 pounds of the illicit marijuana extract butane honey oil for $6,000, and Moore had been carrying about 10 hits of LSD at the time.
Moore ultimately served 15 months in an Idaho prison after pleading guilty in 2019 to a state charge of possessing a controlled substance with intent to deliver, and got time served and probation in the federal case prosecuted in U.S. District Court in Medford.
Thompson was sentenced in Idaho to four years of probation and 100 hours of community service in the state drug case last month. In the federal case, Thompson was handed a sentence June 28 of time served, a year of home confinement, three years of supervised release and community service to be served concurrently with the state case.
Reach web editor Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MTwebeditor.
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