Volume 42, Issue 3 (May 1997)
Forensic Palynology and the Ruidoso, New Mexico Plane Crash—The Pollen Evidence II
The crash of a private plane near Ruidoso, New Mexico in 1989 resulted in an investigation of a small mass of biological material isolated from a tubular component of the fuel assembly. Part of the biological material consisted of a small pellet of pollen. The pollen grains were glistening, bright yellow in color, and surrounded by a moist hyaline substance that formed thin strands connecting the individual grains. If the grains had accumulated over time, some would have been subjected to an air temperature of about 500° F (190°C) for the operational life of the fuel component. If they were present before the crash, they also would have been exposed to a post-crash fire that distorted aluminum parts and melted resin/fiberglass construction material. Experiments with fresh pollen demonstrated that the grains darkened significantly with moderate heating for short periods, and that the connecting strands disappeared. The conclusion, consistent with other biological, chemical, and soil evidence, was that the biological mass was a post-crash accumulation unrelated to the accident.