A Day Late Letter Could Have Saved A Pilot's Life

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DeFuniak Springs -- We now know what caused a deadly plane crash in DeFuniak Springs that killed a pilot. The National Transportation Safety Board released its final report on the 2012 crash that killed Pablino Gutierrez shortly after take-off.

77-year old Pablino Gutierrez took off from the DeFuniak Springs airport around 11:00 a.m. on May 9, 2012. The plane crashed moments after takeoff. Now federal investigators say they know why.

Pablino Gutierrez was an experienced, having flown in the Air Force and as a commercial pilot after leaving the service. On the day of his death, he was flying a Hummel Bird, an experimental plane he built himself.

According to the accident report, Gutierrez took off from the DeFuniak Springs airport, and climbed to a height of 300 feet. The plane then plunged to the ground, killing Gutierrez.

Pilot/Witness Michael Murphy said, “Trying to make a decision to get some altitude to turn and land or possibly lost control all together. The plane went into a nose up attitude pitched hard to the left rolled and kind of in an adverted dive, just went into the ground.”

Investigators say the reason the plane crashed is because there was too much weight on board, as much as 58 lbs. more than the plane was capable of carrying.

In fact, Gutierrez had reported a recent weight gain, which he said made it difficult to control the small aircraft. His daughter calls the new information shocking.

"Knowing who he was or how he was, he would not have taken, he would not have taken a risk like that,” said Mary Gutierrez.
The irony is Federal Aviation Administration officials were a day late with an action that could have saved Gutierrez's life.

They decided to revoke his pilot's license because of medications he was taking for high blood pressure. The certified letter arrived at Gutierrez's home on May 10, 2012, the day after the crash.
His daughter says if Gutierrez had known about the letter, he would not have flown.

"My dad was very by-the-book, very meticulous and things of that nature. He was retired Air Force he's very structured,” she said.
The report says the doctor and some of Gutierrez's friends told him to get a larger plane that he could safely fly.

Investigators say they did not find any mechanical problems with the aircraft.