Pilot and two passengers die in plane crash
PIPESTONE -- A 59-year-old southwest Minnesota farmer and two teenage passengers died in a plane crash on a calm, clear Monday night in Pipestone County.
PIPESTONE - A 59-year-old southwest Minnesota farmer and two teenage 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 girl from Guadalajara, Mexico.
The two passengers were relatives of Christensen’s daughter-in-law, who is from Mexico. Seth Christensen and his wife had just had a baby and the teens had come to visit, according to friend and fellow church member Grant Volsch.
He said they wanted to take a ride in the plane before they went back home.
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 about 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 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
Funeral arrangements for Christensen, a Pipestone native and longtime farmer in the area, were pending with Hartquist Funeral Chapel. He and his wife, Lydia, also have a daughter.
The Christensen family was very involved in the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Sioux Falls.
Volsch, who is a retired pastor, said Christensen helped build the church in eastern Sioux Falls about 15 years ago.
“He is really going to be missed. It’s a sad, sad story,” Volsch said.
“It’s the worst tragedy our church has ever had. It really shakes a person up,” he said.
The crash is being investigated by the Pipestone County Sheriff’s Office and the Federal Aviation Administration.