Rescuers have found some human remains during their search for the six members of a University of Michigan organ transplant team who were on board a small plane that crashed into Lake Michigan and do not believe any of them could have survived the crash, a Coast Guard official said Tuesday.
"The condition of the aircraft debris and human remains found indicate a high-speed impact," Capt. Bruce Jones said. "We believe this to have been a non-survivable crash."
The pilot signaled an emergency shortly before the twin-engine Cessna Citation went down after taking off from General Mitchell International Airport about 4 p.m. Monday.
Divers were pulled from the water at nightfall, but Milwaukee Fire Chief Doug Holton said at a morning news conference Tuesday that divers were preparing to return to the water.
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Tony Molinaro said the transplant team was headed for Willow Run airport near Detroit, a 42-minute flight.
"Within five minutes of its departure from the airport the pilot declared an emergency and requested a return to Mitchell but at that time the plane was no longer on our radar screens," Molinaro said.
The six people aboard included two crew members, he said.
Molinaro said authorities found aircraft debris about six miles northeast of Milwaukee.
The plane was leased by the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor, according to a university news release. It is owned by Toy Air and based at Willow Run.
The university identified those aboard as a team returning from Milwaukee with unspecified organs for transplant to a patient in Michigan:
--Dr. David Ashburn, a physician-in-training in pediatric cardiothoracic surgery.
--Richard Chenault II, a transplant donation specialist with the university transplant program.
--Richard Lapensee, a transplant donation specialist with the university transplant program.
--Dennis Hoyes, a Marlin air pilot.
--Bill Serra, a Marlin air pilot.
--Dr. Martinus "Martin" Spoor, a cardiac surgeon who had been on the faculty since 2003.
"The thoughts of the entire university community are with the families of those involved this evening, and we take consolation in the fact that the team was on a mission to help another," said Dr. Darrell A. Campbell, chief of staff of the University of Michigan Hospitals & Health Centers.
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, but would not release any more information, citing confidentiality.
Lapensee's mother-in-law, Sharon Manier, said the family was asking for privacy.
"We've gotten no word," Manier said Monday evening from Lapensee's home in Belleville, Mich.
Jay Campbell, executive director of the Wisconsin Donor Network, declined to say which area hospital the team was working with, also citing privacy regulations.
The plane was traveling an estimated 185 to 190 mph, and the impact on the water would be "absolutely devastating," Holton said.
At around 4 p.m. light rain was falling at the airport with winds at 12 mph, gusting to 22 mph, according to J.J. Wood, meteorologist the National Weather Service.