Sheriff's office guarding Chesaning plane crash, waiting for FAA to investigate

Published: Dec. 31, 2018 at 3:59 PM EST
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(12/31/2018) - The investigation into the cause of a plane crash in Saginaw County of the weekend hasn't begun, mainly because of the stalemate in Washington over government funding.

The pilot, 83-year-old Bill Burns of Vernon, died in the crash. The former flight instructor died when the small plane he was flying crashed into a storage building at Showboat Park in Chesaning.

Witnesses told police that Burns' plane seemed to lose power before the crash.

While Burns' body has been carefully removed from the wreckage, the damaged plane remained on the site Monday. Saginaw County Sheriff Bill Federspiel has been in law enforcement for more than three decades and has never seen a situation like this.

"You talk about an airplane crash on a holiday weekend with a government shutdown, no I haven't," he said.

Because of that government shutdown, which is entering its second week, the Federal Aviation Administration says it cannot send out a crash investigator. So the sheriff's office is guarding the scene around the clock with deputies and reserve officers.

Federspiel said initially the FAA wanted to have its own medical examiner perform the autopsy, but it wasn't clear on when that would happen.

"We reached a compromise," he said. "They will send a kit to us and then the kit will be utilized by our medical examiner."

The autopsy wasn't done by Monday evening.

Federspiel said he will be back in touch with the FAA on Jan. 2 to see what will happen next. There is a cost to guarding the crash scene and it appears there is no end to the government shutdown in sight.

"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," Federspiel said. "That's my option for them if they say that can't come right away. We are not going to guard a plane in a park forever."

An FAA spokesman couldn't say when the investigation would begin.