Traverse City Record-Eagle

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February 8, 2014

Man faces charge over video from fatal plane crash

BOYNE CITY — Video from a fatal airplane crash in Boyne City is causing a local Charlevoix County News staffer some turbulence of his own.

Michigan State Police arrested Damien Leist, 38, of Boyne City, at his home Jan. 29 for “photographing dead body in a grave,” a felony in Michigan with a maximum two years in prison and possible $5,000 fine. Leist is an advertising sales representative from the Charlevoix County News, owned by Gaylord-based Choice Publications.

He is accused of misleading law enforcement to capture video images of a Jan. 6 airplane crash near Addis Road in Boyne City, where two men died that morning.

Video posted to Leist’s personal YouTube.com feed showed him standing next to wreckage.

“As you can see, the crash site is pretty dismal,” Leist says, after identifying himself as reporting for Choice Publications.

The facts are disputed from there. Authorities allege Leist and a second man asked two Charlevoix County deputies for permission to go to the crash scene and were denied because remains were still at the location. But when the two deputies left for an hour to refuel vehicles, the two men allegedly lied to two new reserve deputies and told them the county undersheriff had given them permission.

Leist said he woke up “late to the game” the morning of the plane crash and called fellow reporter Jeff Bossory to the crash site.

Several media outlets had reporters at the crash site earlier, when deputies escorted media members to a location where photographs and video were taken at distance.

“I get up there at about 11 o’clock and the party is over,” said Leist, who posted a $5,000 surety bond for his release. He said he received permission to take photos of the scene.

Leist said deputies let them walk up a plowed trail to the downed airplane.

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