Wreckage of Jet That Went Missing in 1971 with 5 Passengers Reportedly Found in Lake Champlain

"I'm feeling relieved that I know where the plane is now but unfortunately it’s opening other questions," said the son of one of the passengers

<p>Getty</p> Stock image of a small plane


Stock image of a small plane

The wreckage of a private corporate jet that disappeared after departing Burlington, Vermont, on Jan. 27, 1971, has been found over 50 years later in Lake Champlain, experts believe.

According to the Associated Press, underwater researcher Garry Kozak said he and his team found the wreckage of a jet with the same custom paint job last month using a remotely operated vehicle. The wreckage was discovered submerged 200 feet below water near an area where a radio control tower had last tracked it before its disappearance, Kozak said.

The findings come 53 years after the 10-seat Jet Commander carrying two crew members and three employees of the development company Cousins Properties went missing while en route to Providence, Rhode Island. While debris from the small plane was found after the ice melted that spring, the wreckage was never found after 17 additional search attempts.

<p>Getty</p> Stock image of a small jet plane


Stock image of a small jet plane

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The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating to confirm that the wreckage is that of the missing jet, per the AP.

"We will be evaluating the specifics of what was found, and the degree of certainty to which we are able to positively link it back to the wreckage that was located," an NTSB spokesperson told NBC Boston. "Following that, if and when any of that wreckage were recovered, we would determine what level of examination would be appropriate given what is recovered and what condition it is in."

Kozak told the AP that he is "99% absolutely sure" that the wreckage belongs to the missing jet and hopes that the families of the deceased have "some closure and answers a lot of the questions they had."

In an interview with WCAX, Kozak added that it may have taken a long time to find the wreckage because of how a jet looks when it breaks apart.

<p>Getty</p> Aerial view of Lake Champlain


Aerial view of Lake Champlain

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"A jet, it looks like a pile of rocks, literally. So, to most people looking at sonar data, they can overlook it because they’ll go, ‘Oh, that looks like geology,'" he told the outlet.

Frank Wilder, whose father Frank was a passenger on the plate, told the AP that he is "relieved."

"Spending 53 years not knowing if the plane was in the lake or maybe on a mountainside around there somewhere was distressing. And again, I’m feeling relieved that I know where the plane is now but unfortunately it’s opening other questions and we have to work on those now," said Wilder.

<p>Getty</p> View of Lake Champlain


View of Lake Champlain

Barbara Nikitas, niece of pilot George Nikita, echoed similar sentiments, telling the Associated Press that "it’s peaceful feeling, at the same time it’s a very sad feeling."

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"We know what happened. We’ve seen a couple of photos. We’re struggling I think with that now," said Nikitas.

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