Volume 41, Issue 2 (March 1996)
Fatal Light Aircraft Accidents in Ontario: A Five Year Study
Fatal civil aviation crashes in Ontario from 1985 to 1989 were studied. Data regarding accident circumstances, injury patterns and medical factors (disease, alcohol/drugs) which could have contributed to accident causation was obtained from a review of the files of the Chief Coroner for Ontario in Toronto and the aviation occurrence reports of the Transportation Safety Board of Canada. Forty-seven crashes involving mainly general aviation type aircraft but also 2 gyroplanes, 2 ultralights and a glider were reviewed. About half occurred during the cruise phase of the flight. Seventy (40 pilots; 30 passengers) of the 98 occupants died. The bodies of 68 victims were recovered; 63 were dead at the scene and 5 survived up to ten hours after impact. Multiple trauma killed about half of all the victims (n = 34); 29% (n = 20) drowned; 16% (n = 11) and 3% (n = 2) died of head/neck injuries and coronary disease respectively. Neck trauma was observed mostly in pilots and was the most frequent major blunt trauma injury in drowning victims. Passengers sustained relatively more craniofacial fractures and abdominal/retroperitoneal trauma. Pilot error was the most frequent cause of crashes (55%; 26/47 impacts) followed by mechanical failure (15%; 7/47) and adverse weather/environmental conditions (11%; 5/47). Coronary artery disease incapacitated two pilots (4% of crashes) and ethanol intoxication was implicated in two other accidents. Other drugs did not appear to be a definite factor in accident causation.