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Pilot who crashed off Narragansett on July 4th may not have been cleared to fly

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NARRAGANSETT, RI (WPRI) — The pilot of the plane that crashed while towing a commercial banner over the crowded Narragansett beaches on July 4 may not have been allowed to fly due to a lack of medical certification, the Target 12 Investigators have learned.

Jeremiah Coholan, 36, of Dartmouth, Massachusetts, acknowledged to Target 12 that his medical certification had been delayed at the time of the crash, and still is.

“I’m not flying now,” he said.

But he also insisted he was allowed to fly the plane that crashed four weeks ago.

That may not be the case, according to to the Federal Aviation Administration, which, along with the National Transportation Safety Board, is investigating the crash that did extensive damage to the single-engine plane, but did not cause any injuries.

Under the “Medical” heading on Coholan’s certification page on the FAA website, it reads “No Medical Available.”

“In general terms, [No Medical Available] means the airman would not be able to use the pilot license,” FAA spokesman Jim Peters said. “Some light aircraft do not require a medical along with the license.”

Coholan was flying a Cessna 305 as he floated a commercial banner over the 4th of July beach crowd.

Peters said that craft would not be considered a light aircraft. Speaking hypothetically, when asked if a pilot can fly commercially if their medical status documentation is delayed, Peters answered with one word.

“No,” he said.

Peters said Coholan has no incidents, accidents or enforcement history with the FAA.

According to the NTSB preliminary incident report, the Cessna, “experienced a total loss of engine power while in cruise flight, and ditched on the ocean, about 1 mile from shore,” three and a half hours after taking off.

“At 500 feet, the engine just stopped,” Coholan said a few days after the crash.

Coholan was rescued with only scratches on his shins. The plane was pulled from 30 feet of water with fuselage and right wing damage, according to the NTSB report.

“The engine was retained for further examination,” the report stated.

An NTSB spokesperson said the final report could take a year to complete.

Simmons Aviation Services, a Pawcatuck, Conn. company that owns the plane, has not responded to a request for comment.

The July crash was the second time within six months that Coholan was at the controls for an unexpected landing.

On January 21, Coholan brought a plane down in a snow covered field in Macedon, New York.

“I lost the engine about 2,000 feet out from where I touched down. Complete dead stick,” Coholon told Time Warner Cable News after that incident. “I’ve trained for it, but never done it.”

The incident did not prompt an NTSB report because there was no damage or injury involved.Send tips to Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow him on Twitter@wbuteau

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