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Wed, Jul 05, 2023

NTSB Solicits Public for Help in Mille Lacs Lake Accident Investigation

Video Data and Eyewitness Accounts Sought

The circumstances surrounding a 30 June accident in which the pilot of an ICON A5 lost his life while executing a water landing on east-central Minnesota’s Mille Lacs Lake remain vexingly vague.

At approximately 22:00 CDT on the night of Friday, 30 June 2023, personnel of the Mille Lacs County Sheriff’s Office assisted by the Mille Lacs Tribal Police Department, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Enforcement Division, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Park Ranger Division, the Aitkin County Sheriff’s Office, and the Morrison County Sheriff’s Office recovered the body of 47-year-old Ryan Comer of Blane, Minnesota from some 26-feet of water two-miles east of the lake’s Shah-bush-kung Bay Public Water Access.

Initial reports set forth the accident-aircraft and a second ICON A5 piloted by a friend of the late Mr. Comer’s departed Minnesota’s Anoka County Municipal Airport (ANE) at approximately 13:00 CDT for purpose of flying to Mille Lacs Lake and executing water landings prior to continuing on to Minnesota’s Aitkin Municipal Airport (AIT), the pair’s final destination.

Mille Lacs County Sheriff Kyle Burton stated the aircraft piloted by the decedent’s friend landed successfully. Mr. Comer’s ICON A5, however, crashed on or shortly after touchdown on the lake’s surface.

Sheriff Burton remarked: “We were finally able to recover the pilot’s body just before ten p.m. … We got the airplane out of the water too. … A very long day for a lot of folks. I mean, my heart breaks for the family of this 47-year-old man that lost his life ... You know, they certainly didn’t start their weekend off expecting that something like this was going to happen.”

“These two were very close friends,” Sheriff Burton said of Comer and his fellow pilot. “They were both flying the same type of aircraft. The friend was flying about a quarter mile behind the crashed one—he was able to see the impact when it hit the water.”

On the morning of Saturday, 01 July, Burton prevailed upon the public for assistance, asking parties in possession of security or doorbell-camera footage capturing the incident to provide such to the Mille Lacs County Sheriff’s Office for forwarding to the NTSB.

“We’ve been in contact with the NTSB,” Sheriff Burton explained, “and they’re asking for the public’s help and so my ask of all of you—if anyone has a cabin or a lake place anywhere along that kind of southwest shore of Mille Lacs Lake, if anyone has a Ring camera or any kind of home security surveillance that would have been pointed towards the lake anywhere between 1:30 and 2:00 p.m. … that would have possibly caught any video of this plane crash—if you could contact us, the NTSB would be interested in taking a look at that.”

Sheriff Burton continued: “It would help them kind of put back together the pieces of what happened or what went wrong here. So if anybody watching this has a property—again, on that southwest shore of Mille Lacs Lake or even any boaters that were out that have video—if anybody saw it, please contact us so we can get that info to the NTSB.”

Persons possessing video of the 30 June Mille Lacs Lake accident are asked to contact Mille Lacs County Dispatch at 320-983-8257.

Sheriff Burton concluded: “[I] Appreciate any help you can give us on that.”

The accident aircraft was an ICON A5—an amphibious, two-seat, Light-Sport Aircraft (LSA) designed and produced by Vacaville California’s ICON Aircraft. The first production specimen of the model was publicly debuted at AirVenture 2014. Customer deliveries of the A5 commenced in 2016 and were marred by the disclosure of a purchaser’s agreement comprising controversial terms the likes of contractually-mandated pilot-training; agreements to not sue ICON; and the compulsory inclusion, in every aircraft, of a cockpit camera and recorder by which pilots’ and passenger’s behaviors were to be monitored in perpetuity. What’s more, subject camera and recorder remained the property of ICON despite the fact upkeep and maintenance of such were incumbent upon aircraft owners. ICON A5 buyers were also contractually-obligated to be "supportive" of the company. In the case of resale, future owners were required to sign the selfsame agreement or face penalties. Confronted with the agreement, a number of A5 position holders reportedly canceled their purchases of the aircraft.

FMI: www.millelacs.mn.gov/2395/Sheriffs-Office

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