The government shutdown is playing out across the country, and in one Michigan county that means the sheriff’s department had no alternative but to tape off the scene surrounding a fatal small-plane crash as they wait for federal investigators to arrive.
When Federal Aviation Administration investigators will arrive is not clear.
“We continue to prioritize the available resources,” a frustrated FAA spokesman said. “We certainly don’t want to minimize any crash, particularly a fatal one.”
The plane crashed into a Saginaw County building over the weekend, killing former flight instructor Bill Burns, 83. While Burns’s body has been removed, the wreckage awaits federal investigators who hope to determine why it went down.
Saginaw County Sheriff Bill Federspiel told WJRT he could not recall a similar situation in his more than 30 years of law enforcement.
“You talk about an airplane crash, on a holiday weekend, with a government shutdown, no, I haven’t,” Federspiel told the station in Flint, Mich.
Despite the partial federal shutdown, Federspiel said the FAA initially said it wanted to have its own medical examiner do the autopsy. Since it was not clear when that would happen, “we reached a compromise: They will send a kit to us, and then the kit will be utilized by our medical examiner,” Federspiel told WJRT. “It’s a special kit, a procedural kit, on what the FAA expects out of the autopsy.”
WJRT reported witnesses told deputies Burns’s plane seemed to lose power before the crash.
Federspiel said thus far it appears the sheriff’s department will have to pay the cost of guarding the crash scene.
“It may end up being where we have that plane taken from the scene and stored at a hangar, maybe at our hangar at MBS or Harry Browne Airport until they come. That’s my option for them if they say they can’t come right away; we are not going to guard a plane in a park forever,” Federspiel told the station.