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Names of men in airplane crash identified

The names of the pilot who was killed and the man who was injured in a small airplane crash Sunday morning on Upper Whitefish Lake near Crosslake were released Monday.

The Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Office identified the pilot as Dan Morgan Steffen, 55, Crosslake. Steffen was pronounced dead at the scene after resuscitation efforts were unsuccessful. The name of the passenger is Frederick Graham Hammer, Jr., 61, Crosslake, who was treated at the scene before being transported to Cuyuna Regional Medical Center for non-life threatening injuries. Hammer was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis where he was in satisfactory condition Monday.

In the news release, the Hammer family extended its deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Steffen.

The crash was reported to the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s office at 9:52 a.m., and witnesses indicated there were two occupants in the plane.

Crow Wing County Sheriff Todd Dahl said Monday that the cause of the crash continues to be under investigation, but said that “eyewitnesses heard the engines, then didn’t and it veered hard left and that is all we know.”

Dahl said that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is investigating the crash and the National Transportation Safety Board was notified of the crash.

“It’s a tragic deal,” said Dahl of the crash. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family.”

Dahl did not know what Steffen and Hammer were doing at the time on the plane they were in, which was a Skystar Kitfox 4 fixed-wing, single-engine plane. The airplane was submerged in about 75 feet of water, off shore.

An FAA spokesman in Oklahoma City earlier told the Dispatch that it appeared that the airplane was one which operators typically build themselves.

Assisting the sheriff’s office at the scene were the Crosslake, Nisswa and Breezy Point police departments; the Minnesota State Patrol; the DNR; North Memorial Ambulance Service; Ideal and Crosslake fire departments; and first responders.

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