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June 21, 2014: Police officers keep people away from the scene where a small plane crashed into a home in Sauk Rapids, killing the pilot and passenger and setting the home ablaze.

Jason Wachter, Associated Press

Sauk Rapids plane crash victim was German exchange student

  • Article by: LIZ SAWYER
  • Star Tribune
  • June 23, 2014 - 9:21 PM

A German foreign exchange student was one of two people who died when their small plane crashed into a Sauk Rapids house, just days before he was scheduled to return home.

Alexander Voigt, 16, was remembered Monday by his soccer coach at St. Cloud’s Technical High School as a bright young man always quick to help someone else.

“We knew he would be leaving us soon, but never expected that it would be in this way,” said Nantha Viswanathan.

Commercial pilot Scott A. Olson, 60, was giving Voigt an aerial tour of the St. Cloud area when their plane crashed into the house Friday. A man who was in the house escaped by jumping from a second-floor window and was unharmed.

Voigt was a junior at Tech, where he joined the soccer team last fall. He usually played defense, but scored some goals for the team this season while trying his hand at forward, Viswanathan said.

He described Voigt as a playmaker, allowing teammates to score off his many assists. But what really impressed Viswanathan was Voigt’s ethics on and off the field.

“If he trips someone on the soccer field, he’s the first one to put his hand out and say, ‘Hey, I’m sorry about that,’ ” he said.

During downtime, Voigt showed great pride in his country and an aptitude for learning, Viswanathan said.

“He’s just a very bright kid,” he said. “He will remain in our hearts.”

Voigt was living in St. Cloud, where he was hosted by Mayor Dave Kleis’ family. Olson, the pilot, and Kleis were friends.

“Scott as a pilot was doing something that he loved and Alexander was on top of the world, having the opportunity of a lifetime,” Kleis said. “Scott was doing a tremendous selfless act in giving a kid the opportunity of a lifetime to take some photos. It’s just so difficult.”

The mayor said Voigt had spent 10 months in the United States as part of his exchange program and was supposed to fly home to Germany this week. Instead, Voigt’s parents will fly to St. Cloud this week to collect their son’s remains, said Kleis, who has been in contact with his parents.

“Three families are grieving,” he said, fighting back tears. “We’re really one family now.”

Kleis said there will be a public memorial for Voigt, possibly on Wednesday, the day he was to have flown home.

Voigt had been biking around town Thursday, the day before the plane crash, taking photos so he had memories of his stay in St. Cloud. Olson had tried previously to take Voigt for an aerial view of town but weather or other circumstances had canceled those plans, Kleis said.

“Alexander had wanted for months to have this opportunity,” he said. “What kid wouldn’t want to fly? He wanted to have some aerial pictures.”

Voigt participated in graduation ceremonies at Tech this year, a custom with exchange students.

A preliminary report on the crash from the National Transportation Safety Board likely won’t be ready until at least late this week.

 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Liz Sawyer • 612-673-4648

© 2014 Star Tribune