2 dead after plane crashes into Minnesota home

Published 5:22 pm Saturday, June 21, 2014

SAUK RAPIDS, Minn. — A small single-engine plane plunged into a house Friday night, killing the pilot and passenger and setting the home in the central Minnesota city of Sauk Rapids ablaze, police said Saturday. No one else was hurt.

Witnesses said the plane passed near a larger plane and then appeared to wobble before it went down about 8:30 p.m. Friday.

Neighbor Tammy Lewandowski said the big plane was flying low, and then the smaller plane came in lower and appeared to go out of control.

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“It was coming at us and then we ran,” she told the St. Cloud Times. “We turned around and saw it explode.”

The two people in the plane were sightseeing in the area, Sauk Rapids Police Chief Perry Beise said Saturday. Their names have not been released.

Homeowner Jeff Hille was away at the time but he rushed back after neighbors contacted him and told him what happened.

He sat across the street watching firefighters and police officers swarm the home to douse the flames.

His brother-in-law, Kole Heckendorf, was the only person in the home. He managed to escape unhurt through a window.

“I’m elated Kole’s alive,” Hille told the newspaper.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration were expected to arrive Saturday to investigate the crash, Beise said.

Courtney Breth, who lives in the area, told WJON-AM she was at her neighbor’s pool with her kids when a bigger airplane flew overhead toward the St. Cloud Regional Airport. She watched the smaller plane pass around it, and almost instantly it appeared to be in distress. It turned slightly and “went straight down,” she said.

Sauk Rapids residents Trish and Jeremy Paggen also watched the small plane trail the larger aircraft before crashing. They drove to the crash site and saw the house already in flames.

“We don’t know what happened, but it flew and it turned and it nosedived straight down,” Trish Paggen said. “It wasn’t that loud of an explosion, but you knew right away what it was.”