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Plane in fatal Minnesota crash only airborne for few minutes before striking home

Flight tracking data indicates it crashed into the house shortly after taking off from Duluth International Airport late Saturday night.

A brick home with a large hole in the roof and wreckage in the yard
Three people died when a small plane crashed into a home on the 5100 block of Arrowhead Road in Hermantown, Minnesota, on Saturday, Oct. 1. The home is seen here on Sunday.
John Myers / Duluth News Tribune
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HERMANTOWN, Minn. — The plane that crashed into a Hermantown home late Saturday night was only in the air for a few minutes, according to air traffic tracking data.

The Cessna 172S piloted by Tyler Fretland, 32, of Burnsville, Minnesota, took off from Duluth International Airport at about 11:12 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1, according to data compiled by Flightradar24 and FlightAware , flight tracking services that use planes’ automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast equipment and other methods to track air traffic worldwide.

After takeoff, the plane turned south, flew over U.S. Highway 53, then looped west as it climbed to about 2,300 feet above sea level. At about 11:14 p.m., the plane began to descend as it arced southwest toward Arrowhead Road in Hermantown, picking up speed as it went.

The tracking services’ last available data point for the flight is from 11:16 p.m., when FlightAware reports the plane was traveling at 144 knots — about 166 mph — 1,900 feet above sea level.

The plane struck a power line moments before it struck Crystal and Jason Hoffman’s home, according to Joe Wicklund, a spokesperson for Hermantown’s city government. The plane crashed into the couple's second-story bedroom and came to rest in their backyard.

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It narrowly avoided hitting the couple, Wicklund claimed. The Hoffmans were uninjured.

flight path and data.jpg
Gary Meader / Duluth News Tribune

Fretland and his two passengers, siblings Matthew and Alyssa Schmidt, were killed in the crash.

Hermantown government workers set up the Hoffmans in a hotel the night of the crash, Wicklund said, and the couple is now staying in a furnished rental. City inspectors have deemed the Hoffmans’ damaged home “unlivable,” Wicklund said.

Federal records

Fretland’s name does not appear in any crash reports published by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Federal records indicate a Cessna 172S with the same registration number was involved in one reported accident since it was manufactured in the early 2000s. Its pilot improperly left a taxiway and collided with a median at a Riverside, California, airport in 2004, resulting in no reported injuries. Fretland was not the pilot.

The Cessna 172, often called a “Skyhawk,” is a popular four-seat single-engine plane with a reputation for safety and reliability. The company’s “S” variant has been involved in 43 fatal accidents since 2000, according to NTSB records. It’s been in production since 1998.

A roof of a house and a stray chair rest in the backyard of a severely damaged home
A Hermantown home is shown Sunday after a fatal plane crash.
Dan Williamson / 2022 file / Duluth News Tribune

Joe Bowen is an award-winning reporter at the Duluth News Tribune. He covers schools and education across the Northland.

You can reach him at:
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