The National Transportation Safety Board has released the preliminary report for the Feb. 22 small plane crash into a central Indiana farm field that killed a Wisconsin dairy owner, his son-in-law and the pilot.
Kewaunee-based Pagel’s Ponderosa Dairy owner John Pagel, his son-in-law, Steven Witcpalek and pilot Nathan Saari, died in the crash that happened about 7:30 p.m. Feb. 22 just north of the small town of Rossville, about 60 miles northwest of Indianapolis. The plane had taken off from the Eagle Creek Airport in Indianapolis and was headed to Green Bay.
According to the NTSB report, the pilot deviated from the assigned heading and altitude shortly after takeoff. When questioned by the Indianapolis departure controller, the pilot replied that the airplane was out of control. The pilot then turned the airplane and told the controller he was having difficulty controlling the airplane so that it would fly straight and level. The pilot later transmitted he needed a minute to get control of the airplane and was again having difficulty flying straight and level. Communication and radar contact was then lost.
Several witnesses reported hearing the airplane flying overhead, the NTSB report said. They described the airplane as being very loud and that the engine sound was steady up until they heard the impact.