Two killed as small plane crashes in Sauk Rapids home

  • Article by: JOY POWELL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 21, 2014 - 10:26 PM

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Two people in a small plane were killed Friday night after it crashed into a Sauk Rapids, Minn., home, with the only resident at the home jumping from a second-story window as fire consumed the structure.

The people in the plane were sightseeing in the area prior to the crash, according to the Sauk Center Police Department. Their identities have not been released.

“It’s surreal,” the homeowner, Jeffrey Hille, said as he watched the blaze on the city’s north side, near 18th Street and 9th Avenue N. Sauk Rapids is about 70 miles from Minneapolis, just north of St. Cloud.

Hille’s sister and brother-in-law lived with him in the 700 block of Garden Place, which is just west of Hwy. 10. She wasn’t home, Hille said, but his brother-in-law, Kole Heckendorf, 27, was in an upstairs bedroom when he heard an explosion.

“There was just flames, with smoke,” Hille said his brother-in-law told him. “He jumped out the second-story window.”

Hille said his brother-in-law was fine.

The first 911 calls about the crash came in at 8:26 p.m., the Sheriff’s Office said.

Neighbor Courtney Breth lives within sight of Hille’s house, which is on a cul-de-sac. She saw what happened, which included a bigger airplane being followed by the small plane that crashed.

“We were sitting at my neighbors’ pool and we watched the big airlines plane go low, turning and going toward the St. Cloud airport, and then we heard this little airplane, and all of a sudden we saw the little white single-engine plane behind the bigger plane. The little plane just turned and nose-dived straight down.

“We heard this big ka-boom! And it was like, Oh my gosh,’” Breth said.

Her friend tried to call 911 but was getting a busy signal as she ran toward the scene, seeing if she could offer aid.

The fire started instantly, she said.

“It was black smoke. It just happened so fast, and before you knew it, the house was in flames. The airplane landed in the kitchen area.”

Hille, 30, and his friend, Paul Schlangen, 27, had driven away from the house about 10 minutes earlier, when Hille got a call from his neighbor, who told him a plane had crashed into his house.

They returned to find fire raging through his sand-colored, split-level house.

Multiple police and fire agencies responded. As he watched firefighters battle the blaze, Hille said he’d heard nothing about what happened to the pilot, and he could only assume the plane was inside the house.

Because of the intensity of the fire, firefighters had difficulty getting into the house to look for the pilot or any possible passengers.

“It was crazy, scary, way too close to home,” Breth said.

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