Sauk Rapids homeowner, neighbor discuss crash

SAUK RAPIDS, Minn. - It was a sightseeing trip gone wrong as a single-engine plane plummeted into a home around 8:30 p.m. Friday night in Sauk Rapids, sparking a massive fire.

There was a man in the home at the time, but he was able to escape through a window. Two people on board the plane died. Authorities have yet to release their names.

Investigators with the NTSB and FAA were at the home on the 700 block of Garden Place all day Saturday.

An NTSB tweet identified the plane as a Brumwell RV-6 experimental plane.

Neighbor Carrie Schueller saw the plane fall out of the sky. She was with her husband and some friends when she witnessed the crash.

"I looked up and saw a plane upside down," she told the St. Cloud Times. "I screamed run!"

The plane crashed into the kitchen of the Sauk Rapids home leaving the four external walls of the house standing.

"We turned around and watched it explode into the house," Schuller said.

Neighbor Allie Steinbach also saw the crash. She said a lot of people ran to see what happened.

"I saw the flames and it was very scary," she said.

The owner of the home Jeff Hille, a teacher and baseball coach at Sauk Rapids-Rice High School, had been standing in that kitchen with friends just minutes before the crash. He said they had just left the home to go out to eat, after a day of golf, and were only about a mile from the home when the crash occurred.

"My neighbor called me and she was just hysterical and she said, 'Your house is on fire and a plane ran into it,'" Hille said. "I couldn't believe her. I thought she was crazy at the time."

But she was right and timing was everything for Hille and his friends.

"We're very fortunate that we escaped that," he said.

Even more lucky was his brother-in-law, Kole Heckendorf, who was still inside the home.

"He just broke the window open, the second story window, broke it open with his forearm and bailed," Hille said.

Schueller and her friend Tammy Lewandowski saw Kole emerge from around the house.

"He was dazed," Schuller said. "Wth the impact, it's amazing he was alive. There had to be an angel helping get him out of the house."

Unfortunately, the two people inside the plane did not survive.

"We found two victims in the house later in the evening after the fire was out," Sauk Rapids police chief Perry Beise said.

Most of the fiberglass plane burned up in the flames. The pieces that remained were sitting out on the driveway Saturday as investigators went through them trying to figure out a cause.

Hille said he did lose his 5-year-old golden retriever, Storm, in the crash and fire but while he's missing her, he is still so grateful to be alive.

"We are very fortunate. We are obviously the lucky ones in this whole situation," Hille said.

Some witnesses reported seeing a commercial plane fly through the area moments before the small plane, but the Sauk Rapids police chief said it is unclear if there is any relationship between that larger plane flying by and the crash.

"There were conversations between the planes and they felt comfortable with their distance from each other," Beise said.

He said there was no distress call from the small plane.


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