GREAT FALLS (AP)
Investigators said Thursday the pilot of a medical airplane that crashed and killed all three people aboard didn't have any substances in his system that could have contributed to the accident and there was no evidence of engine failure. T h e N a t i o n a l Transportation Safety Board had been examining the wreckage of a Benefis Mercy Flight twin engine plane that crashed into a ridgeline Feb. 6 on its way to the Gallatin County Airport. Killed were pilot Vince Kirol, 59, and two crewmembers, flight nurse Darcy Dengel, 2 7 , and paramedi c Paul Erickson, 33. Dennis Hogenson, who is in charge of the NTSB investigation, said an analysis and probable cause report would be released late next week. The Beech 200 King Air fixed-wing plane struck a tree 80 feet below a ridgeline about 13 miles from the airport. The NTSB said the plane was maintained in accordance with the manufacturer's inspection program, and the most recent thorough inspection was conducted in September 2006. The plane also was equipped with a warning system that evaluates the terrain and alerts pilots to the proximity of the ground. The NTSB report concludes by quoting the FAA Aeronautical Information Manual, which suggests pilots fly above minimum altitudes set by aviation charts, particularly in mountainous areas. At that point in the route, the minimum altitude level was 9,100 feet. Kirol had been flying for 40 years and was a Mercy Flight Fixed Wing pilot for 12 years. Information from: Great Falls Tribune, http://www.greatfallstribune. com.