Selfies likely factor in fatal Colorado plane crash, investigators say

A pilot taking selfies may have contributed to the deadly crash of a small plane in Colorado last year, federal investigators said.

The pilot, Amritpal Singh, 29, and his passenger, Jatinder Singh, 31, were killed May 31 when the two-seat Cessna crashed in a wheat field shortly after takeoff from Watkins, Colo., about 25 miles east of Denver. It’s not clear if the two were related.

A recording from a GoPro camera on the plane, recovered from the crash site, showed the pilot taking cellphone selfies with a flash during a nighttime takeoff shortly before the crash, according to a National Transportation Safety Board report released last week.

The pilot took off once and landed safely on that flight, which began immediately after midnight on a misty, overcast night, investigators said. The flight lasted just six minutes.

No GoPro footage exists of the pilot’s next, final flight, in which he took off again just nine minutes later. But NTSB investigators said that phone use likely contributed to the pilot becoming confused about the plane’s orientation, leading him to lose control. The plane probably stalled and spun into the ground, investigators said.


“Based on the evidence of cellphone use during low-altitude maneuvering, including the flight immediately before the accident flight, it is likely that cellphone use during the accident flight distracted the pilot and contributed to the development of spatial disorientation and subsequent loss of control,” the NTSB said in its finding of probable cause for the crash.

Other GoPro footage showed the pilot and his passengers taking selfies on other flights on May 30,the NTSB said.

As with automobile drivers, cellphones have been blamed for fatally distracting some small-airplane pilots.

In January 2014, the Federal Aviation Administration banned airline pilots from using phones, laptops and other devices for personal use while on duty in the cockpit.

In a 2009 incident, two Northwest Airline pilots, distracted by a laptop, missed their destination in Minneapolis by 150 miles.

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