- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 7, 2015

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Toxicology tests are planned on the body of a 21-year-old commercial pilot who died after his backcountry aircraft crashed within Craters of the Moon National Monument in south-central Idaho.

Neil MacNichol, of McCall, died of blunt force trauma in the crash Thursday, Blaine County Coroner Russ Mikel said Tuesday.

Mikel said MacNichol was flying from Moab, Utah, to Stanley, Idaho, when he disappeared. The wreckage of the single-engine aircraft was found Friday on a portion of the monument managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in an area called Laidlaw Park. The area is used for cattle grazing.

Laidlaw Park is high desert with sage brush that’s surrounded by old lava flows, said Karl Pearson, chief ranger at the monument for the National Park Service. He said there is a backcountry airstrip within the monument but it’s much farther north than where the crash occurred.

“It didn’t appear that he was trying to land,” Mikel said. “It impacted the ground at a steep angle. Why it did is under investigation.”

The Federal Aviation Administration is conducting that investigation. The agency declined to comment Tuesday.

MacNichol is listed as an instructor at McCall Mountain Canyon Flying Seminars, which specializes in backcountry flying. The company didn’t return a call from The Associated Press on Tuesday.

The tail number on the aircraft that crashed identifies it as a Piper PA-22 built in 1954. Additional information from the Federal Aviation Administration’s registry said MacNichol submitted an application to register the aircraft Feb. 19.

Mikel said toxicology tests are standard in fatal airplane crashes and can find indications of carbon monoxide poisoning, drugs or alcohol. He said he’s awaiting a decision by the FAA on whether an autopsy is needed.

Holly Carter, spokeswoman for the Blaine County Sheriff’s Office, said MacNichol took on fuel in Malad City in southern Idaho before starting north Thursday. She said the Idaho Wing of the Civil Air Patrol alerted the sheriff’s office of a possible crash site, and a deputy found the wreckage at about 10 a.m. Friday.

Carter said a BLM fire crew also went to the site, but the crash didn’t start a fire.

She said the sheriff’s office didn’t put out information about the missing plane or crash until receiving calls from reporters after the weekend.

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