Medical Plane Crashes in Lake Michigan

MILWAUKEE --

Rescuers found human remains during a search for six members of an organ transplant team who were onboard a small plane that crashed into Lake Michigan, a Coast Guard official said Tuesday.

No one was believed to have survived the crash, authorities said.

The life-saving mission was cut short Monday when the Cessna Citation went down shortly after the pilot signaled an emergency. Police and emergency workers searched 57-degree waters to find two pilots, two surgeons and two donor specialists.

"The condition of the aircraft debris and human remains found indicate a high-speed impact," said Coast Guard Capt. Bruce Jones at a news conference. "We believe this to have been a non-survivable crash."

Dr. Darrell A. Campbell, chief of staff of the University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers, said the thoughts of the university community were with the families of those involved.

"We take consolation in the fact that the team was on a mission to help another," he said.

The plane took off from General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee and was headed for Willow Run airport near Detroit, a 42-minute flight, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Tony Molinaro said.

Within five minutes of its departure from the airport, the pilot declared an emergency and requested a return to Mitchell, Molinaro said. But the plane dropped off radar screens just after the pilot made the request and the Coast Guard was contacted.

Divers searched near debris and an oil slick in about 20 feet of water, Milwaukee Fire Chief Doug Holton said.

Molinaro said aircraft debris was found about six miles northeast of Milwaukee.

The plane was leased by the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor, according to the university. It's owned by Toy Air and based at Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti, Mich.

The university said those aboard were a team that was returning from Milwaukee with unspecified organs for transplant to a patient in Michigan.

When system officials found out about the crash, they notified the transplant team in Michigan to stop preparing the transplant candidate. The patient was in critical condition, the university said.

Jones estimated the plane was going 185 to 190 mph. He said the water temperature is 57 degrees and people could survive for 16 hours.

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Associated Press writers David Aguilar and Jim Irwin in Detroit, and M.L. Johnson and Emily Fredrix in Milwaukee contributed to this report.


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