Plane in fatal Hermantown crash only airborne for few minutes
Flight tracking data indicates it crashed into the house shortly after taking off from Duluth International Airport late Saturday night.
HERMANTOWN — The plane that crashed into an Arrowhead Road 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, 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, 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.
It narrowly avoided hitting the couple, Wicklund claimed. The Hoffmans were uninjured.
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.
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.
Staff at the transportation safety board did not return a News Tribune request for comment Wednesday.