One Survives Midair


Does It Really Matter....?
Staff member
3 killed in midair collision over Lake Elmo
Howie Padilla and Terry Collins, Star Tribune

Published August 23, 2003 CRAS23

Golfers at a Lake Elmo driving range were sent running Friday afternoon after a plane involved in a fatal midair collision hit the ground just yards from them.

First they ran for cover from falling debris, and then they ran to help. Later they learned that three people in two planes had died.

"We heard a loud metal sound, like a huge boom," said Nicole Park, co-owner of Country Air Golf Park, a driving range and par-3 course. "I thought it was going to land on the roof of the clubhouse."

Seconds earlier, just before 5:30 p.m., the planes collided less than a mile away, over the intersection of Interstate Hwy. 94 and County Rd. 17. Each carried a man and a woman, and only one man survived. He was taken to Regions Hospital in St. Paul and was expected to survive, Washington County Sheriff Jim Frank said.

One plane crashed at Country Air Golf Park.

Kyndell Harkness
Star Tribune
"After looking at the wreckage, it's miraculous that anyone lived," he said.

The single-engine planes, a Piper Cherokee and a Cessna 172 according to the Federal Aviation Administration, had taken off from Twin Cities metro area airports, Frank said. He didn't specify which, but said he didn't believe they had come from nearby Lake Elmo Airport.

He said relatives needed to be notified before the victims' names would be released.

After colliding in midair, the planes crashed on opposite sides of County Rd. 17, one at the golf park and one in a wooded area near 3rd St. Pl. N. Both left trails of debris north of I-94.

This plane crashed near Lake Elmo Ave.

Kyndell Harkness
Star Tribune
The two victims killed in the plane that ended up in the golf park appeared to be related, Frank said. That plane appeared to nose-dive just before hitting the ground, he said.

The other plane, which Frank said appeared to carry a student and instructor, narrowly missed power lines before splintering in 15-to 20-foot trees and landing yards from a residential area.

The victims in both cases did not appear to be the planes' owners, Frank said.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating, and officials from the National Transportation Safety Board were on their way to the site Friday night, he added.

Firefighters carry a body from plane crash.

Kyndell Harkness
Star Tribune
"Everybody was kinda scared because pieces of the airplane were flying everywhere," Park said.

She said at least six people raced to the plane. When they got near it, they didn't hear any sounds or see movements.

Park said she was selling buckets of golf balls when the planes crashed.

"They probably died on impact," she said. "It was really loud."

Lake Elmo Fire Chief Greg Malmquist, one of the first emergency workers on the scene, said that when he drove up, he saw a sheriff's deputy darting for the golf course and people trying to point to victims.

"There must have been a hundred bystanders," Malmquist said. "Fifty of them pointed to the golf course. Fifty pointed to the woods."

He grabbed a medical bag and ran to the woods, passing out gloves to residents who had gathered to help the victims. When he reached the wreckage, he saw Becky Gernes, a former Lake Elmo firefighter who lives by the woods. Relieved that a trained person was there, he handed her his bag, then raced to the other crash.

"It sounded like a crack of thunder, but I knew something was wrong because there was a clear, blue sky. Then I heard all these people calling for help," Gernes said.

Gernes, who hadn't worked as a firefighter for 11 years, directed people to the roadside to help emergency responders find the victims. She was telling neighbors how to help the lone survivor.

"I knew he had to be stabilized," she said.

Five hours after the crash, she said she was thankful that she remembered some of her training. Her thoughts were with the victims' families.

"I just feel bad for the whole situation," she said as she wondered aloud what could have happened. "I feel bad for that man. I feel bad that three people are dead."

As he surveyed the wreckage, Frank said the accident could have been even worse.

"Not to undermine the tragedy of the crash, but there were a lot of people hitting golf balls who saw this happen," Frank said. "They watched in disbelief, but they weren't hurt. We were really lucky this wasn't a larger tragedy."

Howie Padilla is at
here is the link to the article in case the upload does not work. The scary thing is that I was up in the air doing holds over a VOR around the same time that this happened. The airport is on the same CTAF that we were. Yikes. It scared the wifey until she knew I was home.

now is it a one stroke penalty if the plane falls on your ball or do you get a drop.?

Holy cow You can't even tell where the fuse was on the airplanes. SOmething to be said for Mooneys, they all have a steel roll cage...
Eagle I think it depends if the plane falls in the water or not, and whether or not it's Ground Under Repair (standing water) or a Lateral Hazard.

I wish these news websites would mention states and cities. I had to search that star tribune website for a bit to find Minneapolis-St. Paul mentioned. That's Northwest Territory
My last year at Riddle-PRC, there was a midair of two Riddle 172s in the PRC pattern as both were turning base from opposite downwinds. One was dual, the other on his second solo. The dual crew misidentified an aircraft ahead of the solo as the solo and set spacing for that aircraft; solo didn't see the dual crew. The dual plane hit the solo from 4 o'clock low and the solo's right main tire actually went through the front of the windscreen of the dual 172, striking the female CFI and knocking her out. The two planes were "connected" for about 5 seconds, pounding wings together until they eventually separated. The dual plane made a forced landing ,after losing most of it's prop, about 1/4 mile short of the runway. The solo student, whose plane had warped landing gear, numerous prop tears into the lower fuselage, a banged up wing, and bent firewall, pressed-on and landed.

After 18.4 total hours logged, the solo quit flying for good that day.