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Pilot May Have Had Heart Attack

HOUSTON (AP) — The pilot of a plane that crashed at Houston Hobby Airport shortly after takeoff suffered an apparent heart attack after discovering that a pin used to lock its steering column was inadvertently left in place, an attorney says.

The pilot and five others were killed Friday when the twin-engine plane stalled and nose-dived 300 feet into the ground.

The National Transportation Safety Board found that a gust-lock pin had been left in place. The pins are used to prevent strong winds from moving a parked craft's steering mechanisms.

With the pin in place, the pilot of the Beechcraft Baron 55 could not control the plane's climb or descent, the NTSB said.

The Harris County medical examiner's office confirmed that pilot Kent John Chatagnier, 64, of Austin, suffered a heart attack, said aviation attorney Harry Noe.

``I suspect the predicament he found himself in at 200-300 feet gave him the heart attack,'' Noe, regional vice president of the NTSB Bar Association, told the Houston Chronicle in today's editions.

Noe said he suspects Chatagnier simply overlooked the pin while making preflight checks.

The medical examiner's office could not determine whether the heart attack or the impact of the crash killed Chatagnier, Noe said.
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