Reporter charged with capturing footage of wreck

A reporter who gathered footage of a small airplane crash that killed two in northern lower Michigan has been charged under a state law that prohibits taking pictures of human remains in a grave.
AP Wire
Feb 8, 2014

Damien Leist, who was working for the Charlevoix County News, maintains no one told him that he and a colleague could not approach the site of the crash, which happened Jan. 6 in Boyne City.

"We didn't ask permission, and no one told us not to go either," Leist told The Detroit News.

Officials said that is not the case. Leist, they said, told two reserve sheriff's deputies that he had been given permission to access the scene.

"(Leist) told them I personally gave them permission to go back to the crash site," Undersheriff Chuck Vondra said. "I never spoke with him."

By the time Leist arrived at the site, the victims' bodies had been removed, but trace remains still were in the wreckage, Vondra said.

The sheriff's department did not know footage had been shot until they received an angry phone call from a family member of one of the crash victims who had seen the video online.

State troopers arrested Leist at his Boyne City home on Jan. 29. The Petoskey News-Review said he is charged under a 1997 law enacted after a film crew captured images from the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, the ore-hauling ship that mysteriously sank in Lake Superior in 1975.

Leist, 38, faces up to two years in prison and as much as a $5,000 fine. He is to be arraigned on Tuesday.


Tri-cities realist

While a bit morbid, I would hardly consider a plane crash site a "grave." Sounds more like a ticked off sheriff seeking some revenge.


I agree, and it says the law came from some divers filming the Edmund Fitzgerald. Personally, I think that the historical value of filming the ship is quite important. Obviously, respect the deceased, but I don't think there is any problem with filming;especially a historic ship.

I have a much larger problem if these guys were actually lying to get on the scene of the wreck. Something seems a bit fishy though, and I bet they ticked off someone who is now going after them.


Didn't they film the Titanic site also? Is there some kinda of time limit in regards to filming a "gravesite"?

Sounds to me like he ticked off a cop too, retribution via the law is always an option for those with control issues.

Doesn't this type of thing happen all the time at car accidents? what am I missing here....I'm sure it's me.

Tri-cities realist



LOL! Bingo! I wonder if his shots were in focus?

Tri-cities realist

I see it was scrubbed.


Yeah, that probably went under heading, "no personal attacks".


This guy is a dirt bag! We as a country have gotten despicable! People died there, and pictures or video was published for public viewing, which means friends or relatives of the deceased could see this! The Edmund Fitzgerald is one example, the other more prominent one is the USS Arizona! I do not care if the bodies had been removed, this is morbid, and immoral!


So, what about the battlefields of the civil war, or the concentration camps of World War 2? Without photos of such places, how are we as a society supposed to learn about the horrific tragedies throughout history?

I was actually chewed out by some nutty lady, that kind of sounded like how you are talking, a few years ago simply for filming this video (which admittedly is not the best in the world) of the Traverse City State Hospital .

Like I said before, we definitely need to respect the deceased, but at the same time, showing these historic scenes (and I am not saying this plane wreck is a historic scene) can go a long way towards educating future generations. If we sweep it all under the rug, society will not learn from mistakes or misjudgments.

Former Grandhavenite

That's a cool video with good atmospheric music. It looks like you got to check out at least some of the building's interior. I've done a bit of urban exploration myself and abandoned buildings are always fascinating. Unfortunately in the post-9/11 era the risk of getting busted just for being someplace you're not supposed to be has probably increased.

Preserving the memory of these places and documenting them is historically valuable, and I don't see anything remotely disrespectful about your video, so I don't know what that lady's deal was.


Actually, that fall, I was given free-roam of the buildings by the Minervini Corp (the company doing the adaptive restoration). Sadly, I sold the video camera by that point.

The attics in these buildings are freaking HUGE, and many of the tunnels are still intact. Sadly, there are a couple spots in the interiors that are collapsing, but they are doing a great job of restoring everything.

There is not much left as far as artifacts since the place was cleaned out when it closed down, and overall, the interior is a bit bland, but there are enough interesting spaces and architectural features to keep you interested for days.

The lady flipped out on me saying it was disrespectful and degrading to those people who were forced to live in these hospitals, yet she wandered in to the hair salon that occupies part of the building now.

I too, am into urban exploration, and I have found that many times, simply asking the right person in this day and age can get you pretty good access to places that the public rarely sees. One of the most memorable explorations for me was taking a personal tour in the old tunnels underneath Flint, MI that still connect all the buildings downtown, or even better yet, the old narrow-guage freight tunnels under Chicago (and also a couple long sealed off street car tunnels under the river. Many people walk over them and never have a clue what lies beneath. Most of the street car tunnels have been filled in and paved over, but there are still at least two you can get into if you know the right person.

Grand rapids also has a neat tunnel system i have been in. There is also a sealed off tailrace from a mill under downtown GR.

Btw, the song is NIN - A Warm Place

EDIT: BTW, if you like urban exploration, you may really like this...


Welcome Ms., or Mr. TerryO.

A member for a whole two hours and already supremely seft-righteous. Looking forward to what you have to say after the 24 hour mark.


Listening to the Beatles tonight?..(Mean Mr. Mustard!)


As a matter of fact I am! Got my Itunes up, dialed to the Beatles page and running in Shuffle mode. 18 albums to choose from, I should be good until this time tomorrow night! Waiting for "When I'm 64" to show up anytime now.


Nowhere Man


I could listen to the Beatles Eight Days a Week. Help! - I'm starting to get cabin fever - I could stand a Hippy Hippy Shake! In fact, the snow is now at window level, making it easy to Come in Through the Bathroom Window. "When I'm 64" - Hey, D(J)ude - could be worse (The Fool on the Hill - j/k). Why did I start this comment after a Hard Day's Night? - I Should Have Known Better!

Hello Goodbye!


Well done! I can't compete!


How is anyone supposed to keep track of all these laws than can land ya in prison? The Shipwreck Museum shows videos on a repeat cycle of the Edmin Fitz on the bottom of the lake. Someone has to introduce a bill to repeal that "ignorance of the law is no excuse" No reasonable person can possibly keep track of every single law. Thats like saying every single person needs to be a lawyer with a law degree by 18 years old. Thats about how much sense it makes - that euphemism "Ignorance is no excuse"

Former Grandhavenite

That's a good point that there are so many laws on the books, and so many different jurisdictions with variations on those laws that it can be almost impossible to stay on the right side of the law, even if you're highly trained and making an all-out effort to dot every i and cross every t. This is one of the most important reasons that you should never talk to police without a lawyer present as you could very easily incriminate yourself without realizing it.

Check out:

It covers the VERY many reasons that you should never talk to police even if you're 100% innocent of any crime. The first part of the video is a criminal defense attorney, and the second part is a police detective essentially confirming everything the attorney said. He mentions that nobody has ever talked him out of arresting them, but they've certainly talked him into it many times just by not keeping their mouth shut until their lawyer gets there. This is one of the best legal advice videos I've ever seen.

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