Open door led to Dubois plane crash, report says

Nov 30, 2016 From staff reports

The Dubois man who died in a fiery plane crash Nov. 5 apparently lost control of the plane when he tried to close the aircraft's door shortly after take-off, according to a preliminary investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Bruce Stamper Jr., 44, died at the scene of the crash. The cabin of the single-engine RV-10 plane - which he had built using an experimental 260-horsepower engine - was completely destroyed.

A witness, also a pilot, told the safety board that the right-side gull-wing door of Stamper's plane had opened completely immediately after liftoff from the Dubois airport.

As Stamper reached out to grab the open door, there was a reduction of engine power, and the airplane descended. Stamper was able to recover, however, and he leveled the plane off over the runway about 35 feet above ground level. But when Stamper tried to reach for the cabin door again, the plane entered an aerodynamic spin and crashed in a large explosion below the witness's line-of-sight.

The plane was carrying nearly 60 gallons of fuel at the time.

Officials later called the crash "catastrophic."

The right-side door of the plane was found 600 feet away from the main crash site, which was just west of the Dubois Airport perimeter on property owned by the town. Investigators found that the door was not equipped with the safety latch mechanism provided by the airframe kit manufacturer.

The Fremont County Sheriff's Office, NTSB, Federal Aviation Administration and Fremont County Coroner investigated the incident. Stamper's body was autopsied, but results of the procedure have not yet been released. Coroner Mark Stratmoen noted that the FAA requires autopsies on all pilots who die while flying.

"We aren't really expecting anything unusual," Stratmoen said. "The probable cause of death will obviously be blunt force trauma from an aircraft crash."

Stamper was an experienced pilot. His family settled outside of Dubois when he was 8 years old, according to his obituary. For the past decade he has split his time between Alaska and Wyoming.

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