3 killed as plane crashed into home near Duluth airport

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Three people died when a small plane crashed into a home on the 5100 block of Arrowhead Road in Hermantown on Saturday night. (Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune)
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Three Twin Cities area residents were killed late Saturday night when the small airplane they were flying in crashed into a home and yard just south of Duluth International Airport.

Hermantown officials said Sunday afternoon that Alyssa Schmidt, 32, of St. Paul, and her brother, Matthew Schmidt, 31, of Burnsville, Minn., were passengers in the plane, while Tyler Fretland, 32, of Burnsville, was the pilot. All three died in the crash.

Two occupants in the house, Jason and Crystal Hoffman, were not injured in the crash that happened Saturday just minutes before midnight.

Three people died when a small plane crashed into a home on the 5100 block of Arrowhead Road in Hermantown on Saturday night. (Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune)

“I’m still not sure what to think. It doesn’t seem real, at all. We’re just lucky. The loss of life is heartbreaking. At the same time we’re grateful for making it through this,” Jason Hoffman said, recalling the crash on Sunday morning.

According to Hermantown Communications Director Joe Wicklund, the Hermantown Police Department was notified by the airport’s control tower that a small airplane had left radar and was believed to have crashed. The control tower advised the last location on radar was 1 to 1.5 miles south of the airport.

Police and fire departments from surrounding agencies responded to the area and located the wreckage of a Cessna 172 airplane in the 5100 block of Arrowhead Road. The airplane hit the second floor before coming to rest in the backyard of the property.

The plane took out much of the second floor of the home at 5154 Arrowhead Road. Pieces of the plane, and damaged vehicles that were parked in the yard, were strewn across the backyard. The largest intact piece of the Cessna appeared to be the tail section. Wicklund said the occupants of the small brick house were upstairs when the crash occurred and were unscathed.

“I remember waking up to a very loud explosion and my wife screaming,” Hoffman said. “The first thing I thought was that the furnace exploded.”

It wasn’t until he fumbled through the darkness and dust to get a flashlight that Hoffman noticed an airplane wheel next to his bed and realized it was a crash.

Jason Hoffman Stands On The Other Side Of Caution Tape From His Home. Both Hoffman And His Wife Crystal Were Home At The Time Of The Crash. (Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune)
Jason Hoffman stands on the other side of caution tape from his home. Both Hoffman and his wife Crystal were home at the time of the crash. (Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune)

Neighbors quickly responded to the scene and warned the Hoffmans not to move yet as there were live power lines around the home. The couple found their cat unharmed in the basement and eventually left the home when the dust and rubble became overpowering.

The crash apparently caused extensive power outages in the area but Minnesota Power reported no customers without power at 8 a.m. Sunday.

Hoffman believes the house may be a total loss. He and his wife have lived there for seven years since moving from Worthington, Minn.

“This was actually the first house we saw when we came into town. My wife and I said to each other, we need to live there, and ended up buying it, amazingly,” Hoffman said. “It was kind of like a storybook tale that we found it and fell in love with it so quickly.”

The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are performing an investigation, authorities said. Additional information will be released in concert with the NTSB.

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