Mechanical failure combined with poor weather may explain why a plane crashed early Monday in the northern Minnesota city of Clearbrook, Minn., authorities said.

First responders found the pilot and lone occupant of the single-engine Cessna 172 outside the plane when they arrived on the scene about 1:30 a.m., said Ryan Solee, chief of the Clearbrook-Gonvick Police Department.

The pilot, whose name has not been released, was airlifted to a hospital in Fargo, N.D. The pilot's condition was not immediately available, Solee said.

The aircraft had departed Stanley, N.D. about 9:30 p.m. Sunday and was bound for Bemidji, according to the flight tracking website

The plane, registered to Bemidji Aviation, crashed under "unknown circumstances" near a road and a retaining wall, the FAA said.

Early indications are the pilot experienced a mechanical failure prior to the crash, Solee said.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating.

Clearbrook is about two hours northeast of the Fargo-Moorhead area.