UPDATE: Small Plane Crashes Near Rochester Airport

Posted at: 12/02/2012 9:48 PM
Updated at: 12/03/2012 7:44 PM
By: Brittany Lewis

A small plane crash last night leaves the plane a total loss, but all of the passengers, including a 9-year-old, making it out alive.

Authorities say the four passengers are very lucky. The plane crashed into a field just Northwest of the Rochester International Airport; bouncing and flipping end to end before landing on its top. The plane was Cessna 172 of the Southeastern Minnesota Flying Club.

Authorities say a call came in around 6:35 last night from the pilot of the plane.

"I need to get ahold of the rescue group, at the approach end of the runway. The police department is on the line saying that they do have contact with those in the aircraft,” said air traffic control audio.

"The pilot made a 911 call from the crashed airplane, uh I believe from his cell phone, so they were able to track the coordinates of the cell phone to get the location of the airplane,” said Detective Joe Rossman.

But the conditions were less than ideal.  

“The fog was very dense at that time. We could not see, visibility was limited to 50 to 100 feet at times on the roadway,” said Steven Belau, Deputy Chief of the Rochester Fire Department.

Because of that, sound was needed to locate the passengers. Keeping the pilot on the phone, emergency crews used their sirens and eventually their voices to pinpoint the exact location of the plane. When they arrived, all of the passengers managed to escape on their own.

That included the pilot of the plane, 23-year-old Scott Lebovitz of Owatonna, Daniel Cronk and his 9-year-old son from Byron and Alan De Keyrel, also of Byron. De Keyrel is the owner of CWS in Rochester and former President of the Board for the Rochester Chamber of Commerce.  Two involved in the crash were transported by Gold Cross to St. Mary’s, all are now out of the hospital.

The group used the Cessna 172 to fly to the Packers/Vikings game in Green Bay. The pilot listed on the on the plane was De Keyrel and although he had been taking flying lessons, he was not the pilot of the plane at the time of the crash.

"We have fatal aircraft crashes in conditions like this. They were very fortunate, uh in that it was a relatively, they were coming for a landing so everything was kind of in their favor. Uh, fortunately the soil had been worked up, so that was soft, just everything was in their favor. If this was going to happen. They were very fortunate that all the circumstances were as they were,” said Belau.

A statement sent to KAAL from De Keyrel reads: “We are very thankful that Alan and his friends all walked away from the crash with only minor scrapes and bruises. We are all very luck y and blessed and are enjoying this time as a family. Thank you for respecting our privacy.

The FAA is investigating the crash. By using witness interviews, looking at the pilots training and checking if the plane was built properly, they hope to determine what caused it. They say it could be quite a while before we know.