Southwest Minnesota farmer, two passengers die in experimental plane crash
PIPESTONE, Minn. -- A 59-year-old southwest Minnesota farmer and two young passengers died in a plane crash on a calm, clear Monday night in Pipestone County.
PIPESTONE, Minn. - A 59-year-old southwest Minnesota farmer and two young passengers died in a plane crash on a calm, clear Monday night in Pipestone County.
According to information released late Tuesday morning by the Pipestone County Sheriff's Office, found dead at the scene were the pilot, Steven Christensen, of rural Pipestone, and two passengers, Marcos Favela, 18, of Torreon in north-central Mexico, and a 13-year-old female from Guadalajara, Mexico.
Christensen was flying a Wheeler Express that he built himself from a kit and had been flying for at least the past six years, according to Pipestone Municipal Airport Manager Rob Dykstra.
The airport manager told the Pipestone County Star that Christensen was an experienced pilot and rented a hangar at the airport.
Home-built airplanes are considered an experimental plane, he said, because it’s not built in a factory.
However, he said “experimentals are safe -- very safe.”
“He was a very capable pilot,” Dykstra told the newspaper. “What happened, I just don’t have a clue.”
When Dykstra left the airport around 5:10 p.m. on Monday night Christensen’s plane was still there. The airport does not have a log of scheduled flights, so he said he doesn’t know what time Christensen took off.
However, about 8 p.m., Travis Jasper said he and his construction crew were just finishing work for the day near the crash site when he heard what sounded like a plane in trouble.
"(I) heard it spitting and sputtering. It fired up a couple times and then I thought I heard a car door slam." Jasper told KSFY-TV in Sioux Falls, S.D. "A couple minutes later, I seen the neighbor at the corner and he's like, ‘I think a plane just went down,’ and I said ‘yeah, I think the same thing.’"
Jasper said he and his crew jumped on top of their vehicle to try to spot the plane in the cornfield.
Holland Fire Chief Chris Lingen said he was in Holland and didn't see or hear the plane go down.
A pilot from the Pipestone airport quickly helped with the search of the cornfield and spotted the plane for the emergency responders after receiving the initial 911 call, said Lingen.
The site of the crash about a half mile south of Holland in the cornfield was about a quarter mile from a road.
Lingen said they remained on scene until about midnight lighting it up for the coroner and investigators