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South Dakota man survives plane crash in thick woods of Newburg Township

Mon, May 26th, 2014
Posted in Mabel Features

The scene of a May 17 plane crash in Newburg Township where pilot Carl Koch walked away with minor injuries. Photo by Jason Sethre

As farmers were working up the rich soil of Southeast Fillmore County on the afternoon of Saturday, May 17, an orange and white Preceptor Ultra Pup home-built single-passenger plane overhead seemed to be flying lower than usual. And, it was.

Experienced military pilot, Carl Koch, age 65, had just refueled at an airport in Caledonia. According to Fillmore County Sheriff Daryl Jensen, the pilot had just purchased the plane in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., and was planning on flying it back to his home in Mitchell, South Dakota. His plane fell short of the 453 mile journey, only making it approximately 145 miles to where he crash landed. Koch’s original plan was to refuel in Caledonia, Albert Lea, and Worthington along the way until he arrived at his destination in Mitchell, South Dakota.

But, due to mechanical difficulties still under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), pilot Koch had lost power and had to navigate where to crash-land his newly purchased plane. With a dense volume of woods throughout Newburg Township, Koch and his plane crashed just on the fringe of some tillable farmland on a property owned by Weisel Creek, LLP. Following his crash landing with blunt head trauma, Koch found his way across a field and down a gravel road to the entrance of the property at 42489 County Road 18. From the site of the crash to County Road 18 is a little over one mile on foot.

Once he arrived at the entrance of the property, he dialed 911, at approximately 2:43 p.m. on Saturday, May 17, to inform the Sheriff’s Department. Then he contacted his wife, who was traveling by vehicle following his flight path. Koch ended up with minor injuries and was transported from the scene to the hospital by a private party. The Mabel Ambulance also responded to the call.

In the days that followed the plane crash, an FAA inspector investigated the damaged aircraft, upside down and mangled among the trees. According to Sheriff Jensen, FAA inspectors do not speak to the media. In the weeks to come, more information will be made available relating to the investigation of the crash. Sheriff Jensen said that the FAA inspector shared with him that investigating a crash in which the pilot survives is very helpful. With these types of crashes, the pilot often doesn’t survive to talk about what went wrong.

Victor Spaulding, one of the owners of the property where the crash occurred, also arrived on the scene, asking Sheriff Jensen, “Is the pilot OK? How’s he doing?”

Victor Spaulding, his son Alan Spaulding, and another partner named Mike Cashill are owners of the property under the entity known as Weisel Creek, LLP. All three owners live in the Twin Cities area.

According to correspondence with reporter Mark Roper with television station KSFY in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, an ABC affiliate pilot Carl Koch is in good spirits back at his home in Mitchell, South Dakota.

Koch, who is the city attorney for the City of Mitchell, credits his experience for surviving the plane crash.

“I don’t believe that I would have a fear of flying again. The truth of the matter is, that when I was flying in the military, I experienced things, and when things did go wrong it scared me more than this and obviously I continued to fly,” Koch said, in an interview with KSFY news anchor Mark Roper. But, he did go on to say, “I’m not going to put my wife, whom I expect to be married to until I die, and family, through concern and worry. I’m not going to put them through that kind of concern and worry again.”

KSFY News - Sioux Falls, SD News, Weather, Sports

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