A plane crash on the grounds of a posh Pennsylvania resort that killed three Maryland men stemmed from a front cabin door opening during takeoff, federal investigators have concluded.
The National Transportation Safety Board said the open door caused the small plane to stall and crash shortly after takeoff from Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in December 2015, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported.
Investigators said in a report recently made public that pilot Terry Carlson, 68, of Kensington, Maryland, attempted to return to land as prescribed after the door opened but "did not safely manage the airplane's airspeed and angle of attack and lost control of the plane."
The report said Carlson, who owned the Beechcraft BE 36 single-engine plane, likely was under the influence of an amphetamine, which could have caused palpitations or fainting, resulting in his "loss of control of the plane."
Carlson and Jason Willems, 26, of Silver Spring, Maryland, died in the crash. Carlson's son, Erick Carlson, 27, of Rockville, Maryland, died a day later.
Erick Carlson told firefighters at the scene that the cabin door opened "just after takeoff," investigators said. The forward cabin door's upper latching mechanism was not fully extended in the wreckage, the report said.
The report noted Terry Carlson was a veteran pilot certified by the Federal Aviation Administration. It noted Carlson's widow told investigators after the crash that he had served in Vietnam and had flown Hueys for the Army and later in the National Guard for several years.
"Her husband loved flying and was very experienced," the report said. "She advised that they had the 'door light' come on a few times before and that the door was hard to latch."
The resort was built by 84 Lumber founder Joe Hardy and includes a golf course, a luxury hotel, a casino and an airfield, among other amenities. It has a 3,800-foot-long runway, suitable for smaller planes, according to its website.