What if your husband, a pilot, crashed in his single-engine plane, crawled from the wreckage, and though badly injured, activated an emergency signal that worked for six hours, giving US air traffic controllers an idea of where the crash site was.
What if rescuers did not arrive on site until two days later, finding your spouse dead, a final note to you scrawled on an envelope found near his body.
What if the National Transportation Safety Board [NTSB] wrote the Federal Aviation Administration [FAA] a letter requesting that it tighten its procedures for reporting lost aircraft and quickly getting radar data to the Air Force, as reported in the New York Times article "F.A.A. Hears Distress Calls. How Well It Responds Is Another Matter..."? This case was one of five lost plane cases contained in the letter.
The failure of timely response to the plane crash was caused by miscommunication, a lack of trained personnel, old equipment, and other problems, mostly bureaucratic. In this case, the NTSB blamed the FAA, who pointed a finger at the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center in Florida, then back again.
The pilot's daughter admitted that it was unclear whether her father could have been saved by a quicker rescue response, however, she did want it known that mistakes were made in his case, and it should have been handled differently.
Under these circumstances, could a successful wrongful death case be waged against the US government for the slow rescue response?
Very unlikely. Michael Barr, an expert cited in the NYT article opined: "What the FAA has done is they've accepted the current risk that people won't be found." I believe that their governmental function or duty in cases such as these is "discretionary", and therefore exempt from claims.