Volume 36, Issue 4 (July 1991)
A Bizarre Death Caused by a Model Airplane
This paper describes examinations conducted on fracture surfaces on the horizontal stabilizer of a large radio-controlled model airplane. This stabilizer separated from the aircraft in flight, causing it to go out of control and crash into a bystander who was casually observing the flight. The bystander suffered a ruptured liver and bled to death internally within a short time. In the course of a subsequent lawsuit, it was revealed that the horizontal stabilizer had broken off the plane in a previous flight and had been repaired. Infrared analysis was used to identify the glues used to effect the repair. Microscopic examinations provided evidence of multiple repairs and demonstrated the poor quality of the repairs. This case emphasizes the importance of a careful visual examination of items of evidence as an adjunct to chemical and instrumental analyses.