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Mechanic Charged In Plane Crash Death

October 22, 1988

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ An aircraft mechanic faces manslaughter charges and could lose his certification following his arrest for allegedly improperly installing an engine part that caused a fatal plane crash.

Jack Barker, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration in Atlanta, said he knew of no other prosecution of a mechanic for a mistake that led to a fatal crash.

″The circumstances in this case are peculiar,″ Volusia County sheriff’s Sgt. Edward Carroll said Friday. ″By its very nature an aircraft is a very sophisticated and very dangerous piece of equipment. It’s not like a car that if it breaks down, you dump it by the side of the road.″

Dale E. Halter, 43, of South Daytona Beach, an employee at Spruce Creek Airport, was arrested Thursday by Volusia County sheriff’s investigators on charges of manslaughter by culpable negligence, a third-degree felony, Carroll said. He was released on $2,500 bond.

Barker said Halter’s FAA mechanic’s license is under investigation and could be revoked for violations of agency rules.

The National Transportation Safety Board blamed the July 24 death of Donald R. Paul, of Gatlinburg, Tenn., on an air-oil separator on his single-engine plane that had been worked on by Halter.

Improper installation of the separator caused the engine to lose its oil and freeze up, Carroll said. Paul crashed shortly after takeoff.

″We could trace the path of the plane down the runway from the trail of the oil being expelled,″ Carroll said. ″If the thing had been tested after the installation, it would have been detected.″

Carroll said the charges did not represent a crackdown or a change of policy by his department.

″This piece of equipment was installed in direct violation of FAA regulations,″ Carroll said. ″This person is an FAA mechanic and should have known - that adds up to to probable cause for the third-degree manslaughter charge.″

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