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Newspaper sues NTSB over photographer’s film

January 22, 1997

DETROIT (AP) _ An Ohio newspaper sued the National Transportation Safety Board and the Michigan state police, claiming they illegally detained its photographer and confiscated film he shot six days after a commuter crash.

The (Toledo) Blade and photographer Herral Long contend Long’s constitutional rights were violated when he was forced to surrender film he shot at an airport where a makeshift morgue was set up.

The Detroit-bound Comair commuter plane crashed Jan. 9 in southeast Michigan, about 40 miles north of Toledo. All 29 people aboard were killed.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court names the NTSB; NTSB agent Tom Shepardson, Michigan State Police Lt. Joe Stuck and trooper T.A. Schimke.

Stuck did not return calls; the others declined to comment.

Long said he was shooting pictures in a public area on Jan. 15 near Custer Airport when Schimke and Shepardson ordered him to surrender the film or be detained. He refused but handed over the film after about a half hour.

The lawsuit said the NTSB had the film developed and refused to turn over the film or pictures. The NTSB considered some of the shots ``unacceptable,″ the lawsuit said.

Officials cited President Clinton’s 1996 order empowering the NTSB to assist families after a plane crash, the lawsuit says. That provision was included in airline safety legislation after the TWA Flight 800 explosion.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages and return of all the negatives and prints. It also seeks damages against Stuck and Schimke for Long’s detention and asks the court to prohibit the defendants from enforcing Clinton’s ``vague and overbroad″ order.

Also, on Wednesday, federal and state lawsuits were filed against Comair Holdings Inc., on behalf of one of the victims, Dexter Adams, a 41-year-old Procter & Gamble Co. executive. The lawsuits contend Comair was negligent in aircraft maintenance and pilot training.

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