New information sheds more light on
GOP IT guru's tragic death
01/13/2009 @ 7:39 pm
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Filed by Larisa Alexandrovna
New information surrounding the December plane crash which killed GOP internet consultant Michael Connell casts doubt on some of the rumors and speculation surrounding his death but doesn't close the books on the circumstances surrounding the Republican technology star's tragic end.
Michael Connell, a high-level IT guru for the Republican National Committee and the US Chamber of Commerce, died Dec. 19, 2008 at 5:53 PM ET when his airplane crashed near Ohio's Akron-Canton airport.
Although there has been speculation in the media about the possibility of sabotage in Connell death, authorities do not suspect foul play. The official investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has not yet determined the cause of the crash; their final report is required to be produced within a year.
Connell's ten year-old, seven-passenger, single engine Piper Saratoga II crashed into an empty house on Charolais Street in Lake Township, Ohio. The plane's right wing clipped a flagpole in the front yard before it broke up, set fire to the garage, and tumbled some 50-60 feet along the ground toward the back yard of a neighboring home.
Connell was thrown from the burning plane and killed instantaneously by massive blunt force trauma, according to the Stark County coroner's report. Although the body was not burned, fingerprints were required to confirm identity, according to Captain Lorin Geisner of the Greentown Fire Department.
According to Geisner, Connell's personal items recovered from the crash site included a passport, a driver's license, a rosary and a laptop computer. The coroner's office confirmed that these were among a longer list of personal effects collected by the authorities.
The Greentown Fire Department was alerted at 5:54 PM, just one minute after the crash, following 911 calls by area witnesses to central dispatch. At 5:58, according to Geisner, fire department units arrived on scene and suppressed both the garage and plane fires within several minutes.
Connell's case has drawn particular attention because he had recently testified in a case alleging that Ohio's votes were tampered with during the 2004 presidential election. However, Connell - who was compelled to testify - denied the allegations in his Nov. 3, 2008 deposition.
Connell is also alleged to have been involved with the scrubbing of emails from White House staff which had been sent through an alternate system hosted on Republican National Committee servers.
Information "Lockdown" - Details Withheld from Fire Department
Capt. Geisner expressed considerable frustration during several Raw Story interviews over what he alleges was the withholding of critical details by authorities.
"While en route to the fire, I asked dispatch to learn the size of the plane and the number of souls on board," Geisner explained. "This was not provided us."
Such details allow fire department officials to determine whether additional equipment is needed and if a wider search and rescue is required. Within fifteen minutes of the crash, after officials from Akron-Canton Airport had arrived on the scene, Geisner again sought to confirm the number of passengers.
"After calls were made I was told that the ATC [Air Traffic Control] was 'all in lockdown,' and that they said 'we can't release that information,'" Geisner said.
Todd Laps, Fire Chief of the Akron-Canton airport fire department and a liaison to the Transportation Security Administration and the Air Traffic Control, echoed Geisner's account.
"I had some phone calls placed to see if I could get that number [of people on board]. It didn't come in a timely enough fashion," Laps said.
But Laps says that the words "lock down" were not used. When asked to clarify his earlier comments, Gaisner insisted that the words "lock down" had been used in reference to information.
"That info was not available," Gaisner said. "It was secured -- not given out -- locked down."