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Pilot's In-Flight Suicide?

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The NTSB may remove itself from further investigation of the fatal crash of an RV-4 at Laughlin Bullhead International Airport, Ariz., Saturday April 20, after an autopsy determined the pilot died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head prior to the crash. First reports speculated that the pilot and sole occupant, 44-year-old Thomas Joseph, died from injuries sustained when the plane impacted the ground near Bullhead's single 7,500-foot runway. But a police spokesperson said Monday an autopsy completed earlier in the day determined that the pilot was dead before the plane crashed.

The airport has a control tower that operates from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., according to AirNav.com. Authorities believe the experimental plane crashed between 6 and 7 a.m. There were no witnesses and no cameras are on the field and Joseph was flying the two-seat experimental alone. The wreckage was discovered between the runway and a parallel taxiway at 7:20 a.m. Inside, investigators found a 9-mm semiautomatic handgun. NTSB investigator Patrick Jones told the Las Vegas Review-Journal, "We investigate accidents. This doesn't appear to be an accident." Jones, who has spent 11 years with the NTSB and has investigated more than 300 accidents, said he could not immediately recall any that involved "an in-flight shooting." The FAA and NTSB have both been involved in the investigation. Local authorities may now expand their investigation.

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