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Payne Stewart, What Happened?

Monday's crash of a Learjet carrying famed golfer Payne Stewart is a bizarre story.

Stewart and four others boarded the Lear near Orlando for a flight to Dallas. Very shortly after take-off, something seemed to be wrong. As things developed, the plane veered far off course. Efforts to raise any voice contact with the cockpit failed. Subsequent visual efforts to see in the plane, including some
by U.S. military aircraft, showed no sign of life.

For hours, the plane meandered far north, floating in air, not unlike the mystical flying Dutchman in Samuel Taylor Coleridge's epic poem, The Ancient Mariner.

When the aircraft finally crashed it was near Aberdeen South Dakota. How and why it wound up there remains a mystery, as does almost everything else in this strange story. All passengers died. There were no casualties on the ground.

The Lear is believed to have simply and finally run out of fuel. What happened inside the plane: unknown.

One guess is that perhaps there was a cabin pressurization problem. There are difficulties with that theory...but it does seem to be the most popular at the moment.

You may want to keep in mind that if there is a pressurization problem, people aboard slowly lose consciousness. Or, if the plane had a faulty door or window seal, people could perish in seconds from hypoxia or oxygen deficiency.

Another is that some kind of odorless, potent fumes got loose inside the plane; carbon monoxide or something similar. Difficulties too, with this theory, so make of it what you will.

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