UPDATE: Victims in plane crash near Caledonia identified - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

UPDATE: Victims in plane crash near Caledonia identified


CALEDONIA, Minnesota (WXOW) - The Houston County Sheriff's Office has identified the four people in a small aircraft that crashed southeast of the Houston County Airport Friday.

The crash killed Joel Garrett, 79, of Troy, Mich., Dale Garrett, 49, of Berkely, Mich., and John Bergeron, 50, of Birmingham, Mich.

The one survivor of the crash, Joseph Stevens, 61, of Bloomfield, Mich., was airlifted to Gundersen Health System in La Crosse by MedLink AIR. He suffers severe injuries, according to the Sheriff's Office, but no patient update is available.

Saturday the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) began investigating the crash site.

Investigators believe the twin-engine Piper Aztec was heading toward South Dakota, the passengers en route to a hunting trip, before it crashed in a field about a mile from the Houston County Airport, said Craig Hatch, an air safety investigator with NTSB.

"It appears that one of the wing tips impacted the ground first," Hatch said. "You can generally tell that from the ground scar, and what left over in the ground scar."

In this case, there was a light lens in the ground from the right side of the aircraft, Hatch added.

A farmer notified the Sheriff's Office of an object in a farm field around 4:30 p.m. Friday, said Houston County Sheriff's Department Deputy Kurt Kuhlers Friday night. The farmer didn't see or hear the crash.

Law enforcement discovered it was a plane.

The pilot, the mechanics of the plane and the environment all factor into the investigation, according to Hatch.

The NTSB investigates an average of 1400 crashes. Last year, there were about 250 fatal accidents, Hatch said.

"I was very surprised to see one in a field," said Eric Benson, a pilot and owner of Benson Technical Works, Inc.

Benson logs about 400 hours in the air each year and has piloted a Piper Aztec.

"It's not an airplane that gets away from you," he said. "You can have a less experienced airplane, and a much faster airplane – that's known to be a trouble maker. This airplane is very forgiving."

That's why he has so many questions about what went wrong.

Without any eye-witness testimony, Hatch said he's hoping to talk to the sole survivor.

"There's nothing here that I can do to undo this accident, but maybe there's a tragic lesson learned to prevent the next accident," he said.

Friday the Houston County Sheriff's Department received aid from Caledonia Police, Fire and Ambulance services, Eitzen Fire Department, Minnesota State Patrol, Tri-State Ambulance, MedLink AIR, the Minnesota Department of Transportation, Winona County Sheriff's Office, and the Houston County Highway Department.

The Houston County Sheriff's Office is looking to talk to anyone who has information regarding the crash or witnessed the crash. They are asked to call (507) 725-3379.


CALEDONIA, Minnesota (WXOW) - The Houston County Sheriff's Department said that three people are dead in a twin-engine plane crash near the Houston County Airport near Caledonia Friday afternoon.

The Houston County Sheriff's Department said a local farmer called in around 4:30 p.m. to report a possible plane crash. When emergency workers arrived, they found the plane in a corn field just southeast of the airport. 

Of the four people on board, there was only one survivor, according to authorities. That person was critically injured. A spokesman from Tri-State Ambulance told WXOW that the person was transported by Med-Link Air to Gundersen Health System in La Crosse.

The farmer who found the plane did not hear it crash, according to Houston County Sheriff's Department Deputy Kurt Kuhlers.

Friday evening, the Sheriff's department said they estimate the crash happened roughly an hour before the farmer found it.

Federal officials from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will begin investigating the crash site Saturday at sunrise.

Authorities at the crash site weren't able to say anything about the flight, where it was headed, those onboard, or what caused the plane to crash.

"Whether they have flight data information in these type aircraft, I don't know. But the NTSB will be the official authority in charge of this investigation," Kuhlers said.

All the roads that lead to the plane are blocked off. The Sheriff's Department said they're securing the area until the NTSB and FAA finish their investigation.

Aviation websites that track flights show that the only flight arriving at the

Houston County Airport Friday was a twin-engine Piper Aztec that left Troy, Michigan in the early afternoon for a three hour flight to Caledonia. One website reports the plane's last reported location was tracked to a few miles north of Caledonia at 2:04 p.m. at an altitude of 2,900 feet, and was descending. 

The Houston County Sheriff's Office is looking to talk to anyone who may have seen the crash.  Persons are asked to call them at 507-725-3379. 

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