NTSB finds lack of fuel in March plane crash on beach

The Piper came to rest in the water and was later dragged up onto the beach. — File photo by Tim Johnson

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has issued a preliminary report indicating a lack of fuel may have been the cause of a dramatic accident in which a private pilot skillfully set his the Piper PA-32-300 down on a beach illuminated by a full moon.

Jean Dupon of Edgartown was at the controls of his fixed-wing, Piper single-engine airplane, on the way to Martha’s Vineyard Airport (MVY) from Hyannis the evening of March 19, with his passenger Susan King, when the plane’s engine stopped over Nantucket Sound.

Mr. Dupon, an experienced pilot, set his stricken plane down on moonlit Joseph Sylvia State Beach in Oak Bluffs. The plane crashed at about 8:45 pm. Mr. Dupon and Ms. King were treated at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital for minor injuries and released.

The following day, investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration examined and interviewed Mr. Dupon, owner of Le Grenier, a well-known French restaurant located on Main Street in Vineyard Haven.

The preliminary NTSB report reported that an initial examination of the engine revealed that the fuel tank selector valve was on the right tank position. The NTSB found no fuel present in the fuel tanks, lines or pump.

The accident site attracted a steady stream of curious Islanders who filed by to see the unusual sight of an intact aircraft on the beach. The plane was later dismantled and removed from the beach.

Mr. Dupon told The Times he decided to crash on the beach, or as close to the beach as possible, to avoid any injury to people on the ground.

Reached by telephone last week, Mr. Dupon said he had not read the NTSB preliminary report and had no comment.