Connell declared emergency before fatal crash
Larisa Alexandrovna and Muriel Kane
Published: Tuesday December 30, 2008

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Republican IT consultant Michael Connell, who was killed on December 19 when his Piper Saratoga crashed near the Akron-Canton Airport, had declared an emergency shortly before losing contact with air traffic control.

According to a preliminary incident report filed by the safety division of the Federal Aviation Administration on December 22, "The plane was on ILS (Instrument Landing System) approach to runway 23. Tower noted plane left of course. Tower directed plane to climb and maintain 3000 feet and didnít comply. When advised to climb a second time, the pilot declared an emergency and was lost from radar shortly thereafter."

The National Transportation Safety Board has now posted a more complete report, but one which still leaves unresolved both the exact nature of Connell's emergency and the cause of the crash.

According to the NTSB, Connell initially contacted air traffic control (ATC) at the Akron-Canton Airport to ask whether there were any reports of icing and was told there were none. His approach was then uneventful until ATC noted that he was left of his course and asked if he would like to be resequenced. Connell replied "correcting." ATC then advised him again that he was "well left of the localizer" and Connell responded that he would "like to correct."

The report continued, "N9299N [Connell's plane] was about 2 Ĺ miles from the airport when it then transmitted if it could execute a 360-degree turn. ATC then instructed N9299N to climb and maintain 3,000 feet and queried N9299Nís present heading. N9299N transmitted, 'heading due north and climbing.' N9299N then declared an emergency."

NTSB spokesperson Bridget Serchak told RAW STORY on Monday that she had spoken with Senior Air Safety Investigator Mitchell Gallo, the NTSB investigator on the case, and could confirm that "the pilot asked for assistance landing."

When reached by RAW STORY on Tuesday, Gallo, who had reviewed a tape of the full radio exchange, explained that the Connell had not elaborated when declaring the emergency. "He didn't describe the nature of it," Gallo stated, "but then following that ... I don't remember what the actual verbiage was ... you'd have to again refer to the actual report."

The NTSB report further cites an eyewitness who "was outside of his home when he first heard a 'loud' engine sound from a small aircraft. The sound was coming from the north and sounded as though the pilot was trying to accelerate 'rapidly.' Suddenly, the witness saw two bright lights coming almost nose first toward the ground with the engine 'roaring.' Based upon the witnessí view of the lights, he assumed the airplane was flying west to east. He lost sight of the airplane when it descended below a tree line."

The eyewitness, who wishes to remain anonymous, has spoken with Raw Story and provided a copy of the statement which he wrote up immediately following the crash. (See image below)

According to the witness's statement, when the plane vanished from his sight, "I was certain it was going to crash and was actually waiting for the sound. However, once again there was a tremendous roar of the engine and I thought it was just the pilot doing a stunt over their house. It was almost instantly after I once again heard the engine that I heard the thud as it hit the ground. Approximately 1 second later, the sky became orange and there was no doubt what had happened."

Connell was the founder of New Media Communications, which created official websites for the Republican National Committee and the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign that provided the email accounts used by White House aides involved in the US Attorney scandal.

New Media also spun off GovTech, under Connell's wife's name, which was hired by Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell to set up an official state election website that presented the 2004 presidential returns as they were received. This site has been of particular interest to some who suspect possible election fraud in Ohio during the 2004 presidential election, and Connell's testimony was recently sought in a case alleging fraud.