MILACA, Minn. (WCCO) – The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating a plane crash that killed two people near Milaca, Minn. Thursday morning.
The FAA said it’s a Piper 46 plane that was en route from Aitkin, Minn. to Beaumont, Texas. The tail number of the plane was N9103N.
The plane is registered to TeeMark Corp. in Aitkin. Officials at TeeMark said the two people who died were the owners of the plane, Thomas Eberhardt and his wife, Elinor. They said Thomas was flying the plane.
The couple was headed to visit family in Beaumont, Texas. Their family dog Sonny was also killed in the crash. Officials say the Eberhardts were both wearing seat belts in the aircraft.
Dave Johnson saw the plane shortly after it crashed in his brother’s pasture, near 150th Avenue and 190th Street in Page Township.
“You sure wouldn’t think something like that would happen here, in my front yard,” he said.
As he got closer to the plane, he said he could tell it wasn’t good.
“The plane’s laying in pieces, the wheels are laying off to the side, just about three different pieces. The plane was kind of crashed, broken in half, top was open and there was a dog laying about 20 feet away,” Johnson said. “Must’ve been thrown from the plane.”
Authorities say Eberhardt might have been trying to land the plane in the pasture near Milaca.
“The plane had landing gear and it appeared the landing gear was down at the time that the plane was coming down so it may have been trying to make an emergency landing there in that open field area,” said Sheriff Brent Lindgren, of Mille Lacs County.
The plane apparently lost radio contact with air traffic control at some point Thursday morning so a missing plane alert went out at 10:14 a.m. The alert was canceled at 10:27 a.m. after the plane was found.
There is no information on the weather conditions in the area at the time of the crash, or what might have caused the crash, though weather is presumed to have played a part.
Lindgren said underneath the snow in the pasture where the plane crashed there are large rocks, which would’ve made it difficult to land an aircraft.
The plane was a 1986 fixed wing, single engine plane. An investigation into the crash will continue Friday morning.
Milaca is about 65 miles north of Minneapolis.
WCCO-TV’s Rachel Slavik Reports
WCCO-TV’s John Lauritsen Reports