SAUK RAPIDS – Authorities on Sunday were still in the process of identifying at least one of the two victims killed in a plane crash Friday night in Sauk Rapids. And a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board likely won't be ready until at least late this week.
Sauk Rapids Police Chief Perry Beise said, while one preliminary identification apparently has been made, a second continues to delay any official announcement as to who was in the small plane that crashed into a home at 731 Garden Place at about 8:26 p.m. Friday.
"One of the families hasn't been notified yet," Beise said. "So as soon as we can do that, hopefully as soon as possible — maybe (Monday) or the next day — we can get something out. It's going to take a bit to do a 100 percent positive identification of the remains ... they weren't identifiable in the house."
Beise said the Midwest Medical Examiner's Office in Ramsey is handling the identifications of the victims. The Midwest Medical Examiner's Office did not immediately return a message Sunday.
Peter Knudson, a spokesman for the NTSB, said Sunday the plane carried the marking N135BB. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the plane with that number, a Brumwell RV-6 experimental craft, is owned by Scott A. Olson of St. Cloud. According to his LinkedIn profile, Olson has been a pilot for Sun Country Airlines since 1989.
The NTSB and FAA are in joint investigation of the crash, Knudson said.
"Our goal is to have a preliminary report available within 10 business days of the accident, however, it's possible it could be sooner," said Knudson, who is based in Washington D.C. "I think the investigator has finished his on-scene work, so it could possibly be out this week ... it won't be very extensive. It usually lays out the time and location and a few factual things. To reach a final conclusion takes an average of about 12 months."
The plane is a single-engine model with two seats and a bubble-top canopy.
"We understand it was departing and returning to the St. Cloud airport," Knudson said. "It took off at about 7:55 p.m."
Before the crash, the Brumwell RV-6 was in the vicinity of an Allegiant Air flight from Mesa, Arizona, that landed at St. Cloud Regional Airport. The Allegiant Airbus 319 arrived at about 8:30 p.m. Friday. Allegiant officials are cooperating with the NTSB in an effort to find out what happened.
"We are aware of that," Knudson said. "I've been asked a lot if we're looking at that, and the answer is yes. It's one of the things we're looking at. But I want to stress that it's just one element of the investigation."
According to police, the small plane was on a sightseeing trip when it crashed. Beise said the area of the crash can be in the flight path to the airport. Bill Towle, who is director of St. Cloud Regional Airport, did not immediately return a message Sunday.
"We're pretty much done with the investigation, though we didn't really have a part in it other than doing scene security," Beise said. "Our job was basically to allow the NTSB and the FAA to do their jobs and remove the victims."
The plane crashed into a home owned by Jeff Hille, a teacher and baseball coach at Sauk Rapids-Rice High School. Hille was not home at the time, but his brother-in-law, Kole Heckendorf, was in the house but escaped out of a second-floor window. Hille, Heckendorf and Hille's sister, Kristen, had been living in the home and have since been staying with family in the area.