Report: Pilot in plane crash that killed former Vancouver man was intoxicated

By Emily Gillespie, Columbian breaking news reporter


Updated: March 6, 2013, 6:09 PM


The pilot in a fatal airplane crash last year near North Bend was intoxicated, according to an investigative report by the National Transportation Safety Board. The crash killed all three on board, including a former champion swimmer from Hudson's Bay High School.

The investigation shows that the four-seat plane did not malfunction before it crashed into Mount Si on Feb. 15, 2012. The report said the pilot, earlier identified as Rob Marshall Hill, registered a 0.15 percent blood alcohol content.

Air safety investigators concluded their investigation last month and have forwarded the report to the agency's headquarters in Washington D.C., which will review the report and have the final word in determining the cause of the crash.

Former Vancouver resident Seth Dawson, 31, was a passenger in the plane and was killed in the crash.

In high school, Dawson claimed three state titles and went on to swim at Cal State Bakersfield. He later became a swim coach at Kentlake High School in Kent.

The other victims of the crash were previously identified as Hill, a 30-year-old swim coach at Decatur High School in Federal Way, and Liz Redling, 29, of Federal Way.

Hill held a commercial pilot's certificate and a flight instructor certificate, and was issued a first-class airman medical certificate in August 2007.

The investigation, which was made public last month, gives clues into what led up to the crash. The report offers the following account of the evening of Feb. 14, 2012, and the early hours of the next day:

According to one of the passenger's family members, Hill, Dawson and Redling attended a hockey game that started at 7:30 p.m., and following the game, the three went to dinner.

Though there was no flight plan filed, the fixed-gear Cessna 172S airplane took off from Renton Municipal Airport at 1:35 a.m.

A witness saw the plane flying as low as 1,000 feet above the ground, approaching North Bend. Another witness reported seeing the lights of the plane about 300 to 500 feet above the ground and then heard a loud pop before the engine noise stopped.

Several witnesses reported hearing the crash at 1:54 a.m. on the western face of Mount Si.

An examination of the wreckage revealed that there was no evidence of mechanical malfunction or failure with the airframe or engine prior to impact, the report said.

Hill's 0.15 blood alcohol content was well above federal regulations, which prohibit any crew member of a civil aircraft from having a blood alcohol content of .04 percent or more.

Also in Hill's system was 6.8 mg/L of dipehnhydramine, an antihistamine mainly used to treat allergies.

State Patrol Toxicology Lab supervisor Brian Capron said that a 50 mg tablet of the drug produces a detection of .08 mg/L in the blood after three hours.

"That amount is much higher than a normal dose that one would take for allergies," he said.

Hill also had 92.08 mg/dL of acetaminophen in his urine, but Capron said that is not an impairing substance.