I-Team looks into deadly Lake Erie plane crash search delay

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CLEVELAND-- The FOX 8 I TEAM has found confusion and a stunning delay in getting a search started after a plane crashed into Lake Erie. This comes to light on air traffic control tapes just released this week to the I TEAM.

The plane crashed last December just after takeoff from Burke Lakefront Airport. Six people died.

On the tower tapes, the first talk about a search came 8 minutes after the last contact with the plane. A controller from Hopkins Airport spoke with a controller from Burke.

After 12 minutes, more talk between air controllers. In fact the Burke controller asks, "Are you gonna initiate the search and rescue?" The Hopkins controller answers,
"I'm trying to get to the calls, but I don't know who I need to call."

After 17 minutes, finally, the recordings reflect a call to the Coast Guard.

Cleveland attorney Jamie Lebovitz has made a name for himself nationwide in aviation lawsuits. He’s now looking into this case. Lebovitz referred to the delay in starting the search saying, "Absolutely inexcusable, unjustified."

He added, "You have to presume that every missing airplane has people on board, and there's opportunity, a window of opportunity to recover those that may have survived."

A private company runs the Burke tower. So the I TEAM tried to talk to a manager. Keep in mind, as we had pushed for those tower recordings that same manager had told us his company didn't have to respond to public records requests. For this story, he refused to come down to talk to us.

Meantime, the Federal Aviation Administration says it can’t comment with the crash still under investigation.

It may be months before the cause of the crash is determined.

Continuing coverage on this story, here.

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