Laconia Man Convicted Of Faking Plane Crash
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) _ A radio enthusiast who faked a plane crash was convicted in federal court of making a false report to the government after a neighbor testified he heard the man say, ″I am in trouble. I am losing blood.″
The fake Jan. 8 report during the height of a snowstorm triggered a search for a downed plane, three dead passengers and a weakening pilot. The hunt involved 20 aircraft, six police agencies and up to 100 people at a cost of $50,000.
Jurors deliberated for about two hours Wednesday before convicting Mark Blair, 29. Blair faces a fine and up to five years in prison when he is sentenced July 1 by U.S. District Judge Shane Devine.
In closing arguments, Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Papps portrayed Blair as a radio enthusiast who enjoyed instigating the crash hoax during one of the worst storms of the year.
″Imagine the power he felt making this Navy plane run east to west and north to south,″ Papps said, referring to a plane that for nearly four hours flew low over risky terrain searching for the downed jet.
Defense lawyer Paul Twomey said he will appeal the verdict on grounds of insufficient evidence, saying, ″This case is garbage, absolute garbage.″
But Papps said the testimony of the neighbor and the Navy pilot ″clearly identified Mark Blair as guilty.″
Blair had testified he couldn’t have committed the hoax because he was asleep and wasn’t aware that a plane was reported down until he woke and turned on a police scanner after 10:47 p.m.
Blair said he then overheard the downed pilot tell the Navy plane that he believed passengers were dead, that he had lost a lot of blood, was having trouble staying conscious, and could see and hear the Navy plane overhead.
But his account conflicted with times given Monday by David Webster, the Navy reservist and Delta Airlines pilot flying the Navy plane. He said conversations with the lost plane ended shortly after 10:35 p.m.
Timothy Dinan, 24, who lived in Blair’s apartment building, said he heard the scratchy sound of a two-way radio through an open window in Blair’s apartment and a voice clearly saying, ″I am in trouble. I am losing blood.″
When police searched Blair’s apartment and a nearby storage shed, they seized radio equipment and printed material that included the name Dale, the name given to searchers by the man who said he was the injured pilot.
The materials also contained highlighted references to a radio frequency used that night and information about police emergency codes.