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No. 9 - Small airplane crash kills one, injures another

A 55-year-old Crosslake man was killed and another was injured when a small airplane crashed July 22 into Upper Whitefish Lake near Crosslake.

The pilot, Dan Steffen, was pronounced dead at the scene after resuscitation efforts were unsuccessful, the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s office reported. The passenger, Frederick “Rick” Hammer Jr., 61, Crosslake, suffered extensive injuries in the crash. Hammer was taken to Cuyuna Regional Medical Center in Crosby and then transferred to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis.

Hammer said Steffen was not just his friend, but he was like a member of his family. Hammer said Steffen would be greatly missed by all who knew him.

Hammer said Steffen asked him if he wanted to go flying on his new plane — a Skystar Kitfox 4 fixed-wing, single-engine plane — on that July 22 day. Hammer, who is a professional commercial photographer, said yes, grabbed his camera and went to meet with Steffen.

Hammer said they were about 800-1,000 feet in the air before the crash occurred. They were just starting to fly lower so Hammer could shoot some photos. Hammer guessed that they were traveling more than 50 mph. Hammer said they did a slight climb and then all of a sudden it pitched hard left and they went into a spiral, nose down and crashed.

According to Steffen’s obit, his passion for flying was only matched by the love he had for his family.

“Whether flying his float plane to the family cabin at Lake of Bays in Canada marveling at the tranquility and serenity of nature or operating remote-control airplanes and boats. Dan loved to live.”

JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at or 855-5851. Follow me on Twitter at