Search and recovery efforts from December 2016 plane crash looked for fitbits

Black box recorder (Source city of Cleveland)
Black box recorder (Source city of Cleveland)

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Nearly a year after a deadly plane crash in Lake Erie, the city of Cleveland finally released some documents related to search and recovery efforts.

On Dec. 29, 2016, the plane, piloted by John Fleming, crashed into Lake Erie within a minute of taking off.

Fleming was on board with his family, wife Suzanne, and sons Jack, 15 and Andrew, 14, and two family friends, Brian Casey and his 19-year-old daughter Megan.

Leg, torso from victims in 2016 Lake Erie plane crash found off Pennsylvania coast

The two families had flown up from the Columbus area to go to a Cleveland Cavaliers game, after the game, at just before 11 p.m., the plane took off from Burke Lakefront Airport, and within a minute of taking off the plane went down.

Within days of the crash, Cleveland 19 requested information related to the search and rescue and search and recovery efforts from the lead agency in the investigation, the city of Cleveland.

Ten months after the crash, the city of Cleveland fulfilled about half of Cleveland 19's public records request.

The city of Cleveland's law department and a spokesperson has ignored Cleveland 19's request for the additional documents, or a reason as to why the documents were not provided.

The 93 pages turned over to Cleveland 19 detail actions taken, and equipment used, during the recovery efforts after the crash.

The documents begin on Jan. 1, 2017 and they go until three days after the crash.

Although they do not shed light on what happened in the minutes, hours and days after the incident, they do offer new information about recovery efforts.

The frigid waters of Lake Erie, and poor weather, made search and recovery efforts difficult for responders who spent days in the water trying to find any sign of the plane, or the passengers.

The search site was initially about the size of a football field, documents show the size of the area went from Cleveland to Bratenahl.

On Jan. 3, the documents state, responders tried to use three Fitbits and a blood glucose monitor, that were presumably on the plane at the time of the crash, to try to locate the crash site.

The report states that none of them apparently had GPS tracking that could be useful to the search.

A week after that, with the help of new equipment and a week of data, the first large parts of the plane were recovered. 

Cleveland 19 obtained brand new pictures from the report that show the nose of the plane immediately after it was taken out of the water.

Document show plane seats, the engine and personal items were also found that day, more than ten days after the crash.

It would be two more days, 12 days after the crash, before crews would find the black box recorder.

At the time, National Transportation Safety Board officials said that the recording on that black box was intact, but so far has not released what was on the recorder. 

The NTSB has also filed a preliminary report about the case, but they told Cleveland 19 haven't finish a final report on the crash, which would include the cause of the crash and potentially information on the black box recording. 

NTSB officials said that it typically takes between 12 and 18 months to finish a report like this one. 

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