Inability To Communicate With Officers On Ground Led To OHP Plane Crash

Thursday, December 12th 2013, 9:46 am
By: Richard Clark

The inability to communicate with police officers on the ground contributed to a plane crash that seriously injured an Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper last summer.

Trooper Dennis Dickens was hurt when the single-engine Cessna 182 he was flying crashed near Tecumseh on July 26, 2013.

7/27/2013: Related Story: OHP Identifies Pilot Seriously Injured In Pott. County Plane Crash

He was helping in the search for a man who had left the scene of a car wreck nearby.

The National Transportation Safety Board has released its Factual Report on the crash. The report contains no finding of an official cause of the crash, but it does provide details about what was happening during the flight at the time of the incident.

Read the NTSB's Factual Report on the crash.

According to the NTSB, Dickens had taken off from an airport in Norman at about 6:13 p.m. to join the search for Brent McKenzie, 50, of Shawnee, who had been involved in a car wreck at State Highway 9 and Bethel Road.

A few minutes after arriving over the scene, Dickens established radio contact with a trooper on the ground and told him he'd found McKenzie. The trooper was not near the police officers involved in the search and Dickens had no way of contacting them with his radio.

Dickens told the NTSB he saw the police officers walking in the wrong direction, away from   McKenzie's location. He flew over the officers and pointed in the direction they should walk to find McKenzie.

As the officers approached McKenzie, Dickens told the NTSB, they looked up at him for further guidance. He told investigators he reduced engine power and started a slow descending turn over McKenzie's location. As the officers started to approach McKenzie's location, Dickens said, the airplane's aerodynamic stall warning sounded.

Dickens told investigators the left wing "stalled hard" which means it quit producing lift. He said the nose of the airplane pitched down and turned to the left. He leveled the wings, straightened out the plane using the rudder and applied full throttle, but was not able to prevent the plane from hitting the ground.

The report says investigators could find nothing wrong with the airplane before the impact. 

They also say the aircraft had been fitted with a Horton STOL kit in 2002, which would improve the airplane's performance at low speeds.

The report shows Dickens was rated as a fixed wing and helicopter pilot with 3,902 hours of total flight time.

The third and final report on the crash will be the Probable Cause Report. It will likely be issued in a few months. 

Police eventually arrested McKenzie and booked him into the Pottawatomie County Jail on several charges, including DUI, leaving the scene of an accident, unsafe lane change and resisting arrest.