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Seventh Body Found; Tower Staffing Criticized

Mon., July 21, 1997

Rescue divers on Sunday found the body of a seventh person killed when two planes collided above Lake Michigan and investigators are looking into complaints the lake control tower was often understaffed.

Members of the National Transportation Safety Board said it could take a year for them to say for certain what caused Saturday’s crash.

The private, single-engine planes collided about 100 yards from the rocky shore on a clear evening, killing five women and two men.

A southbound Cessna 172 struck the Beechcraft Bonanza and then exploded, said Celeste Alexander, who saw the crash.

“The other plane kept flying north for about maybe 10 or 12 more seconds, then all of it sudden it sputtered - you could literally hear the engine - then it just went down,” she said.

Two weeks ago, Chicago aviation commissioner Mary Rose Loney brought her worries about air traffic control staffing at the lakefront Meigs Field. She told the Federal Aviation Administration she was particularly worried about the busiest hours on nice days and weekends.

Meigs Field reopened Sunday night after the city received assurance from the FAA that it will consider adding control tower staff during peak hours.

However officials would not speculate whether the tower was understaffed at the time of the crash.

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