Pilot had cocaine in system at time of double fatal crash, NTSB says

MARINELAND, Fla. – A flight instructor had cocaine in his system at the time of a plane crash that killed him and a student in 2017, but it’s unknown if the drug played a role in the incident, according to a report from the National Transportation Safety Board.

Records show Jeffrey Salan, 70, was piloting the plane on July 13, 2017 while training 27-year-old Mohammed Alanazi, of Saudi Arabia. They were both members of the Sunrise Aviation Flight School in Ormond Beach. No one else was on the plane.

The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office said at the time that witnesses saw the plane flying low, heard the engine sputter and then saw the single-engine aircraft spiral down into a swampy area near Marineland in the Matanzas River.

The NTSB listed the cause of the crash as loss of in-flight control.

Records from the agency show that Salan had cocaine and marijuana in his system at the time of the crash but whether he was experiencing the effects of the drugs at the time is unknown. Investigators could not determine how long it had been since he used the drugs.

“The circumstances of the accident are consistent with an in-flight loss of control. Whether and to what extent the flight instructor’s use of the two psychoactive drugs some time before the accident degraded his performance and contributed to his inability to safely manage the flight could not be determined,” the report read.

A family member said Salan used marijuana casually and had used cocaine in the past.

Investigators found that the plane airplane was at 5,500 feet shortly before 11 p.m. when it began to descend at a speed of 144 knots. About 28 seconds later, it began ascending again at a rate of 6,000 feet per minute for about four seconds, until it climbed from 5,200 feet to 5,600 feet, according to the report.

Records show the plane then descended a second time and final time at a rate of 10,000 feet per minute.

To read the report in its entirety, click here.