Two of those killed in the Faribault plane crash were related to the Mayo family that founded the famed clinic.
The long Thanksgiving weekend was a festive gathering of family and friends for Dr. Chester W.P. Mayo and his teenage son, Chester Mayo Jr.
But celebration turned to sorrow when father and son, descendants of the family that founded Minnesota's renowned Mayo Clinic, died along with two young friends Sunday night in a small-plane crash in Faribault, Minn.
The Mayos, of Aberdeen, S.D., had flown from Aberdeen to return Chester Jr. and his roommate, Jay Wang, 17, to Shattuck-St. Mary's private school in Faribault after the holiday break. Wang and Corey Lyn Creger, 19, a Faribault native and freshman at the University of Wisconsin-Stout in Menomonie, Wis., who was a friend of the young men, also died.
The elder Mayo was piloting the late-model, single-engine, four-seat Cirrus SR 22.
The plane went down just before 3 p.m. during a second attempt to land on a runway at the city's small airport, according to a news release from Mayo's medical practice in Aberdeen, Orthopedic Surgery Specialists.
According to the Rochester Post-Bulletin, Mayo, an orthopedic surgeon, was the great-grandson of Dr. Charlie Mayo, one of the clinic-founding Mayo brothers.
Mayo grew up at Mayowood, the family estate in Rochester. He graduated from the University of Minnesota Medical School and completed his residency at the Mayo Clinic.
Crash under investigation
Officials from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board arrived in the city of 21,000 50 miles south of the Twin Cities Monday morning.
Few details were released at an afternoon news conference. NTSB investigator Ed Malinowski said preliminary information on the crash won't be available for at least a week. A complete report could take six months to a year, he said.
Elizabeth Isham Cory, an FAA spokeswoman, said the plane had taken off from Aberdeen and was making a second attempt to land when it flipped over and burst into flames when it hit the ground.
On Sunday, Dan Collins, interim Faribault police chief, speculated that wind gusts in excess of 20 miles per hour might have contributed to the crash. But on Monday, Malinowski declined to speculate about a possible cause.
Authorities sifted through debris for on-board devices that may have survived the crash with information such as the plane's speed and settings. NTSB investigators expected to spend another day at the crash site.
After the crash, the aircraft was hardly recognizable except for a few large white pieces of its outer shell.
"It's a very hard scene to process," Collins said. "There's very little of the plane left."
Faribault was abuzz about the crash, Collins said. That was also true in Aberdeen, said that town's mayor, Mike Levsen.
Chester W.P. Mayo "is a well-known and significant member of the medical community here," Levsen said. "He was just very well-respected. Everybody's shocked."There will be a lot of patients in that South Dakota area that will miss [him]," said Dr. Joseph Mayo, Chester's older brother, of Yorba Linda, Calif.
Joseph Mayo said he and his brother learned to fly airplanes before they were old enough to drive cars.
"He's an incredibly careful, well-trained pilot. He had his instrument rating," Joseph Mayo said. "It wasn't all that exciting flying with him, because he was always worried and concerned and double checking and all that."
The grief of many of the Shattuck-St. Mary's classmates of Chester Jr. and Wang, and that of UW-Stout friends of Creger, was reflected in Facebook.com postings by their friends.
Creger, an art and multimedia design major at UWStout, was a 2006 graduate of Faribault High School, according to her Facebook page. Friends started a Facebook group called "I can't believe Corey's gone," and posted poems and memories describing her as sweet and mischievous.
UW-Stout e-mailed students Monday with the news of Creger's death and said grief counselors would be available.
Brian Pfenning, a friend and former classmate of Wang's, said Chester Jr. and Wang were returning to school after the Thanksgiving break.
Wang "was just a great guy," Pfenning said. "It's a loss of two great kids."
Pfenning said Wang was fun-loving and had an artistic streak. "He always made me smile and laugh," he said.
Shattuck-St. Mary's officials declined to comment, and Creger's family did not want to address the media.