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Crews Remove Plane Wreckage from Lake Superior

Updated: 06/23/2014 11:01 PM
Created: 06/23/2014 11:09 AM WDIO.com
By: Travis Dill
tdill@wdio.com

The St. Louis Co. Volunteer Rescue Squad and Superior-Douglas County Dive Team have pulled the wreckage into McQuade Safe Harbor after lifting it up from nearly 140 feet underwater.

Fog hung low on Lake Superior as crews set out from the McQuade Small Craft Harbor north of Duluth Monday morning. Rescue Squad Captain Tom Crossmon said that didn't hurt the recovery effort.

“It's not going to hamper us at all. We've got radar that will get us to where we need to go and GPS so the fog won't hamper us at all,” Crossmon said.

He said the calm waters made great conditions for the commercial divers headed 137 feet underwater to retrieve the wreckage. Crossmon said the Superior-Douglas County Dive Team helped the divers as they rig up the wreckage.

“Setting up lines, large lift bags to life the aircraft off the bottom. Once we get it to the surface we'll tow it back here,” Crossmon said.

He said the process is tougher than it sounds with much of the plane broken from the impact of the crash.

“Making sure that we've got everything tied up real well. Of course with the wreckage there's parts that will fall off so we want to make sure we have all that tied up nice and neat before we attempt the lift, and that shouldn't be a problem,” Crossmon said.

Crews pulled the cockpit, propeller, engine, and landing gear up Monday. The rest of the wreckage had already been collected from the surface of the water. The whole process took a little more than two hours.

The aircraft is a Lancair IV kit plane, and the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office identified the owner as 47-year-old Alexander Obersteg from Germany.

Authorities recovered Obersteg's body two weeks ago and believe he is the sole victim of the crash. An autopsy ruled out the possibility of a medical emergency contributing to the crash, but the exact cause is still under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Crossmon said the investigators with the FAA and NTSB will be able to focus on the wreckage Tuesday. 

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