A small plane crashed into a house near a Minnesota airport, killing the pilot and both his passengers, but the two people sleeping inside the home — and their cat — escaped unharmed, authorities said.
Hermantown Police said the Cessna 172 plane crashed into the second floor of the home in the 5100 block of Arrowhead Road just south of the Duluth airport late Saturday night, before coming to rest in the backyard.
The victims have been identified as elementary school teacher Alyssa Schmidt, 32, from St. Paul, her brother, 31-year-old Matthew Schmidt, and the pilot, Tylor Fretland, 32, both from Burnsville.
Jason Hoffman, the owner of the home that was heavily damaged in the crash, told Minnesota Public Radio that he and his wife, Crystal, had been asleep for just about an hour before the plane tore through the roof above their bed.
“We couldn’t hardly see each other through all the insulation dust. I was able to grab a flashlight next to the bed and the first thing I saw was an airplane wheel sitting at the end of our bed,” Hoffman said. “That’s when we looked out and noticed the entire back half our house was gone.”
The couple found their cat unscathed in the basement and got out of the house, moving carefully to avoid live power lines that had been downed by the plane.
The Hoffmans found the wreckage of the Cessna wedged between a truck and the garage.
“I’m still not sure what to think. It doesn’t seem real at all,” Hoffman said of the deadly crash. “We’re just lucky. The loss of life is heartbreaking. At the same time we’re grateful for making it through this.”
Hoffman said the house, where he had his wife had lived for seven years, may be a total loss.
A spokesperson with Independent School District 196 has confirmed to KSTP that Alyssa Schmidt taught 3rd grade at Echo Park Elementary School.
“You were a kind and loving soul,” co-worker Carolyn Jahnke Manderfeld wrote in a Facebook post mourning Alyssa’s death. “Everyone loved you. You loved being a teacher. You truly loved your students and colleagues at Echo Park Elementary School. We are devastated and heartbroken.”
The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the crash.
With Post wires