Caledonia plane crash remains a mystery

Almost a year after three people were killed in the crash of a twin-engine plane in Caledonia, Minn., the National Transportation Safety Board is not offering many clues why.

The plane was traveling from Troy, Mich., to Houston County airport in Caledonia when it crashed into a field in the middle of the afternoon, a half-mile from the airport.

In its factual report issued today, the NTSB reported that the one man who survived the November 1, 2013 crash doesn’t remember it.

The surviving passenger later reported that his first recollection was wakening up in the hospital. He stated that he could not remember any details surrounding the accident, nor did he recall any comments made to the first responders. In subsequent conversations with the passenger, he still could not recall any details of the accident; however, he did recall events prior to, and shortly after takeoff. He was the first one to arrive at airport, followed afterwards by the others. The pilots conducted a preflight, opened tanks, went under the wing to sample the fuel, and looked at the airplane. The pilot had sandwiches for everyone; he remembered the airplane taxiing out and the run up, and then flying along. He then remembered waking up in the hospital.

Killed in the crash were Joel Alan Garrett, 79, of Troy, Mich.; Dale Edward Garrett, 49, of Berkley, Mich.; and John Paul Bergeron, 50, of Birmingham, Mich.

The NTSB reported examination of the engines showed no problems, the plane had fuel at the time of the crash, and the weather did not present any obvious problem.

The NTSB report said the survivor, Joseph Stevens, 61, of Bloomfield, Michigan, doesn’t know why they would have landed in the Minnesota city.

The surviving passenger stated that he didn’t know why they would be at Caledonia; however, typically they would pick a place about half-way to their destination, to exercise the dogs, use the restroom,and to refuel the airplane. He added that he’d flown with them numerous times, and never observed anything unsafe with the pilots or airplane. The usual routine would be to put the airplane away full of fuel.

There were no eyewitnesses to the crash.

  • Greg W

    I had thought a pilot needs to file a flight plan before taking off. I guess not, since the NTSB didn’t know where this plane’s pilot was going.
    What a weird story.

    • He did. He was on an IFR plan from Troy, Michigan to Caledonia, according to the NTSB.

      • Greg W

        I’ll be damned. Reading IS fundamental. The passenger didn’t know why they were going to Caledonia, not the NTSB.

        Even massive pilot error would show up in some sort of readings or re-creation of the accident, correct?

        • Yeah, you would think so. The NTSB report detailed the wreckage and it didn’t sound like a typical stall/spin , which would be a typical cause of an accident like this:

          The first impact point was a ground scar which contained remains of a green navigation light lens. From the first impact point, about 24 feet from the green lens fragments, the ground scar contained several cuts; the next major ground scar contained the airplane’s nose baggage door and fragmented pieces of windshield. Both wings had extensive damage, and were twisted in an upward position from the wing roots. The airplane’s fuel bladders, located in
          the wings, were compromised, however, a small amount of fuel was found in the tanks. The left engine and engine mount had mostly separated from, but remained next to, the left wing. The right engine had totally separated from the wing and was located about 15 feet to the right of the main wreckage. The ground scars and wreckage were consistent with the airplane’s right wing impact, followed by the right
          engine and fuselage impact. The airplane came to rest in an upright position, turned about 180- degrees, and facing the first impact point. The landing gear and flaps were in the retracted positions. Control continuity was established from the tail control surfaces to the forward section of the fuselage; aileron continuity was established out to the left and right bellcranks; the right aileron bellcrank had impact damage.