Conspiracy Theory Appears Less Likely in Fatal Crash

When one of Republican strategist Karl Rove's top IT operatives dies while flying his personal single-engine aircraft, it's not hard to imagine that eyebrows will be raised among conspiracy theorists. But the preliminary NTSB report on the crash that took the life of pilot and sole occupant Michael Connell tends to point in a more familiar direction. According to the board's investigation so far, Connell received his pilot certificate in 2006, had earned his instrument rating and had logged a total of 510 hours at the time of the December 19 accident. His Piper Turbo Saratoga was on an instrument flight plan to Akron-Canton (Ohio) Airport and had received radar vectors to the localizer for an ILS Runway 23 Approach. When advised he was left of course, Connell replied that he was correcting. After he was observed to be "well left of the localizer," Connell was asked if he'd like to resequence, but responded that he'd prefer to "correct" and asked for a 360-degree turn to re-intercept the localizer. Weather was deteriorating at the time, with the visibility dropping and the ceiling lowering. As he executed the turn, Connell declared an emergency and subsequently crashed. NTSB investigators who examined the wreckage report there were no apparent anomalies with the control system and the engine appeared to have been developing power on impact. Stimulating conspiracy theories was the fact that Connell was Rove's chief IT consultant during the 2004 presidential election. At the time of his death, Connell had been subpoenaed to testify regarding accusations of voter fraud in Ohio during that election.