NEW ORLEANS — A crane on a barge lifted the wreckage of a small sightseeing plane from a lake near New Orleans on Tuesday, the bodies of the pilot and a passenger still in the cabin, authorities said.
The crane, operated by a salvage contractor, hoisted the plane onto the barge after divers first attached cables to the wreckage while it was submerged, New Orleans Fire Department spokesman Gregory Davis said. Video footage showed the plane being pulled from the waters still intact.
The Cessna 172 crashed into Lake Pontchartrain while attempting to land Saturday night at the New Orleans Lakefront Airport, plunging into waters about 1,000 yards off the runway. A woman passenger was rescued by a private yacht from the lake and survived.
The airport director, Ben Morris, had said a couple chartered the plane for an aerial tour of New Orleans and that it encountered a rainstorm about the time of the crash. None of those aboard were immediately identified.
The recovery operation was slowed by “very murky” conditions on the bottom of lake, Morris said. The plane went into waters about 12 to 14 deep in the vast lake, which forms the north shore of New Orleans and covers 630 square miles.
Autopsies were ordered on the bodies of the pilot and passenger, both men, to determine the cause of death. The victim’s names are expected to be released by a local coroner’s office later, officials said.
The investigation into the crash is being led by the National Transportation Safety Board, with the assistance of the Federal Aviation Administration. NTSB spokesman Terry Williams said the plane was being moved to a secure location where investigators can begin examining the aircraft.
“We will be looking at the plane’s maintenance report and also talking to the lone survivor to determine what caused the crash,” Williams said