3 people die in Rochester plane crash

Published 6:30 am Thursday, June 17, 2010

A small plane narrowly missed a house and crashed into woodland in southern Minnesota overnight, leaving at least three people dead, authorities said today.

Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory said the plane crashed about two miles northwest of Rochester International Airport shortly before midnight Wednesday.

Cory said at least three people died and that officials were trying to confirm the type of aircraft, its origin and destination.

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It was not immediately clear how many people were in the plane when it crashed.

Olmsted County Sheriff’s Capt. Terry Waletzki told The Post-Bulletin of Rochester that the aircraft was so badly damaged in the crash and an ensuing fire that officials were struggling to identify the passengers and plane.

Olmsted County Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Mark Darnell told The Associated Press that the private plane crashed about 200 yards into the woods, and that the trees, along with a creek and cliffs in the area were hindering efforts to access the crash site, about four miles southwest of the city of Rochester.

Darnell said the victims had not yet been removed from the wreckage.

The plane narrowly missed the home of Douglas and Lori Eaton.

“We heard what sounded like a helicopter landing on my house. It woke us up. Then, there was a super loud explosion,” Douglas Eaton told the AP. “My wife and I looked out the window and saw flames shooting out of the woods.”

Lori Eaton said she ran to the wreckage in the woods while her husband called 911.

“It was already on fire. I just yelled to see if anyone would answer my call and see if anyone needed help, and no one was answering my call,” she said.

Darnell said local investigators were waiting for FAA personnel to arrive to investigate the crash.