By Paul Walsh
MINNEAPOLIS _ A Minnesota-bound medical transport airplane with five people aboard crashed into Lake Michigan near west-central Michigan late Friday morning, and one person has been rescued, federal officials said.
The single-engine propeller plane went into the water about 8 miles northwest of Ludington about 10:15 a.m. EDT, and “pretty choppy waves 2 to 6 feet high are definitely hindering” the rescue effort, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Nathaniel Parks.
The Coast Guard has two ships, a helicopter and a airplane involved in the search, Parks said.
Another petty officer, Brandon Blackwell, said early Friday afternoon that “we are searching for the remaining four people, and we still haven’t located the debris.”
More than 3 hours into the search, Blackwell said, “We still believe these people have the possibility of being alive.”
The successful rescue was carried out by a fishing boat about 2 hours after the crash, Parks said. That person was suffering from hypothermia but further details about his condition were not immediately known, Blackwell said.
First word of the crash came from a “witness saying he saw the plane in the air and then heard it go in the water,” Parks said. An electronic distress signal from the plane was detected, he said.
Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory said the Cessna 206 left Alma, Mich., Friday morning for Rochester, Minn.
The plane is owned by Freed Construction Co., of Alma in central Michigan, and a woman answering the phone there said it was bringing a patient to the Mayo Clinic. The company is owned by Jerry and Carol Freed.
Carol Freed said Friday afternoon that her husband was on the plane with friend and pilot Earl Davidson. She said they regularly volunteered to fly people to Mayo.
“We’ve all been to Mayo Clinic for various reasons,” she said. “A lot of people cannot get a flight there due to time constraints and cost.”
A map of the plane’s flight path from flightaware.com indicates that the plane deviated sharply over Michigan, doubling back and then heading due north. The website lists the flight’s departure time as 8:52 a.m. EDT, with arrival about 400 miles later scheduled for 10:38 a.m. CDT.
In 2007, A plane carrying donor organs for a double lung transplant crashed into Lake Michigan near Milwaukee on its way to the University of Michigan Health System hospital in Ann Arbor. All six people aboard the Cessna 550 Citation were killed.